Catholic Church Scandals


For thousands of years, the Catholic church and scandal have almost become synonymous. It started with charging to have sins absolved and has now led to something as bad as sexual abuse. How could an institution that is supposed to save and love to do something so horrible?

On December 17, 2019, Pope Francis issued a decree that gives legal authorities more access to sexual abuse cases that occur in the Church. Previously, victims and authorities had limited access to their court documents- and victims were not allowed to speak out about the case. Now, the Pope has gotten rid of the ‘pontifical secret’ and is letting people break the silence, and for good reason. The Church had become skilled at hiding cases of clerical abuse and had issues with people reporting it. By issuing this decree, it will be much easier to discuss these cases and find a way to fix this problem, and it may make it easier for victims to get closure.

In August of 2018, the Catholic church was brought back into the spotlight on the terms of sexual abuse from clergy members. Information was released by Pennsylvania’s grand jury about alleged abuse from multiple clergymen in six different dioceses. According to CNN, the article stated that more than 300 priests have victimized over 1,000 children over the last seven decades. Priests impregnated women and forced them to get abortions, which the Catholic church is supposed to be against. The release of these chilling facts has sparked a major issue with the Catholic institution. How could the leaders of the church let something like this fly under the radar and not do anything about it? Pope Francis has been trying to make amends with victims and critics by apologizing for the church’s failure to act on these accounts, but many people are still unhappy.

For anyone who grew up Catholic as I have, that news was unnerving. The leaders we were supposed to trust and guide us in our faith have now been accused of petrifying acts. Could this be happening around us too? I now feel like I should always be on edge; it seems so difficult to know who we can trust and who we can’t. I look at the small children in my church and wonder what it would be like for them to be abused in these ways, by the teachers they trust. It is impossible to feel safe in a community that kept all of these horrible things secret and did not take action against them. Because I was feeling this way last year, I decided to reach out to the deacon at my parish, Deacon Mark Byington. He was able to explain to me what was going on and how to deal with this information. Below is a conversation I had with the deacon.

Can you explain your thoughts on the allegations against the Church?

“My first thoughts came from anger. The anger that one feels when one is betrayed. I would like to have said that there were shock and doubt, but in my life, I have seen the worst of people. The Church is made up of people, men, and women, who are not who they should be. All of us were born in the image and likeness of God, but because of sin we live now with a fallen nature, our second nature if you will. If we are not mindful of what we can do, we fall into a state of sin. We would like to think that being ordained or taking religious vows somehow that prevents us from acting out our fallen nature, but in truth, it tempts one even more.”

Can you explain what you know about what the Church is doing to investigate and help people involved?

“I would refer you to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop’s website regarding this especially, “Committee Releases Actions to be Taken Within Its Authority”  The Bishops are establishing a third party approach to investigate situations and calling on themselves to be accountable. In addition, many bishops including our own Archbishop Carlson are calling on all Catholics to be evangelizers of the faith, to work to explain our faith and not hide it from others. Like you are doing now, working to explain the actions of those in leadership positions in the Church.”

As a leader in the Church, do you have any advice for younger people on how to cope with this situation?

“Well first I would save that I am a servant leader, which means as a permanent deacon, an ordained Roman cleric, my responsibility first is to be an example, in doing so, yes I am called to be a leader. But that position is first and foremost as an example of one who is obedient to the Church and the Archbishop. I would say for young and old to pray. In prayer we communicate with God; we enter into a dialogue with Him. Prior to man’s fall from grace in the Garden, a man walked with God, talked directly with Him. Prayer is not only a time to ask for something which is the lowest form of prayer, it is, more importantly, a time to talk, which means that we also have to listen. Like having a personal conversation with your parent or grandparent sometimes we find it best just to listen and in doing so get the best advice. We think we have to do the talking all the time. But God already knows how we feel if we are hurting. That’s where contemplation or meditation comes into play.

I would advise one to look upon the Crucifix during this difficult time. Know that Jesus was truly an innocent man who was beating and nailed to a cross, left to die for crimes he did not commit. He in this time of grief is our true example. He understands how you feel, your confusion, your doubt, he cried out “My God my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Psalm 22). This is from the psalms; a prayer to the Lord when one is in need, at one’s lowest point. In our faith, we focus therefore on Christ crucified to find our strength, as an example of what we are called to be as Christians, “followers of Christ” called to pick up our crosses and follow him.

I would add that now is not a time to leave the Church or to call to change the practices as often is called for during times of crisis. The lack of faith, the doubt of God’s existence and power are what causes the crisis. If deacons, priests, and bishops were strong in their faith, in their belief in God they would not have dared did such acts to those who were entrusted to them in fear of eternal punishment. For all of us who are strong and remain loyal to God, to his Church as part of the Body of Christ, we are called to live out our faith. To stand and say I am Catholic, I am sorry for the wrongs done to all those abused and I pray that we will work every day to right the wrongs done, to confront the injustices committed, to build up the Body of Christ. Faith brings grace, grace brings faith followed by right action. Jesus calls on all young people to follow him, to take up their crosses, to answer their personal call to a vocation, living out their faith in the lives they have been given.”