Editorial: Our Church is in crisis; be part of the solution

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The dome of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Nearly one year ago, Catholic leaders from around the globe were summoned to Rome by Pope Francis to attend what was hailed as an unprecedented global summit on clergy sexual abuse. Approximately 200 bishops, observers and other leaders spent four days in conversation, consultation and prayer concerning the crisis that has absorbed and crippled the Church, especially in the United States, for the better part of two decades.

In his talk concluding the summit on Feb. 24, 2019, Pope Francis outlined eight priorities for the Church moving forward: the protection of children; “impeccable seriousness” in dealing with clerical sexual abuse; genuine purification and acknowledgment of past failures; improved training for priests and religious; strengthening and continually reviewing the guidelines of national bishops’ conferences; assisting victims of clerical sexual abuse; working to end the abuse and exploitation of children and young people online; and working with civil authorities to end sex tourism. Since the summit concluded, some actions have been taken. In May, Pope Francis released Vos estis lux mundi, a motu proprio outlining new universal procedural norms designed to protect children by holding bishops and religious superiors accountable for their actions. Then in December, the pope lifted the so-called pontifical secret surrounding cases of clergy abuse, allowing for greater transparency in reporting, trials and decisions. 

Each of these priorities and actions has merit, and protecting children and assisting victims must always be at the top of any list. But if we are truly to find healing as a Church, we can only do so if proper emphasis is placed on the priority of the truth — of “genuine purification and acknowledgment of past failures.” As just one example of that, the People of God have been patiently but resolutely awaiting the publication of a full report on Theodore McCarrick, the former cardinal who was dismissed from the clerical state by Pope Francis last February. McCarrick was found guilty by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession and abuse of power. 

McCarrick, whose whereabouts remain unconfirmed after he recently left the Kansas friary where he had been residing, was one of the most prominent and influential figures in the Church until, and even after, his 2006 retirement. His rise to power despite his pattern of criminal and abusive activities, believed to be not unknown to many in the hierarchy, has called into question those who surrounded and, likely, protected him.

At the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore last November, Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston announced that an extensive report on McCarrick would be released by the end of 2019 or in early 2020. As of press time on Jan. 21, it had yet to be produced. 

Despite the ugliness that almost without doubt will result from the report, we pray that the report is released sooner rather than later, so that healing and trust can begin to be restored within the Church we love.  

But OSV has not chosen to wait passively. On March 12-14, we are hosting “The Church in Crisis: A Way Forward for Catholic Laity” in Arlington, Virginia. The conference will explore the roots of the abuse crisis, look closely at causes, offer practical tools for healing and restoring trust, and empower and inspire the laity with a greater understanding of their rights, duties and vocation as baptized members of Christ’s Church. As our bishops chart a path forward on the national and international levels, Catholic laity have the opportunity and responsibility to assist them by working to renew and bring hope to a broken Church. This symposium will help that process to begin.

“The Church in Crisis: A Way Forward for Catholic Laity” will be both educational and inspirational, and will serve as a soothing balm for those who may be frustrated with, yet who remain committed to, the Church. Among the event’s speakers are Dr. Edward Sri, Dr. Christoper Ruddy, Father John Beal, Dr. Hosffman Ospino, Teresa Pitt Green, John Carr, Father Agustino Torres and Kathryn Jean Lopez. It will be hosted by OSV’s publishing division, including Scott P. Richert, publisher, and Gretchen R. Crowe, editorial director for periodicals. 

The cost for the three-day event has purposefully been kept to an affordable $59 to encourage participation. Details can be found at churchincrisis.eventcreate.com. Seating is limited, so we invite you to register today.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott P. Richert, Scott Warden, York Young

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board consists of Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, Gretchen R. Crowe, Matthew Kirby, Scott P. Richert and York Young.