What Catholics Still Don’t Understand About the Sexual Abuse Crisis



There is still a lot of confusion among Catholics about the sexual abuse crisis.

And for good reason.

The abuse crisis rocked the church for decades, with a complicated timeline and an even more confusing set of actors. Take former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. He was once considered a great leader of the American Catholic Church and was a key player in the creation of child protection protocols for the church following the 2002 Boston Globe investigation of sexual abuse of the clergy.

In 2018, we learned that McCarrick himself was an abuser. That same summer, the Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed more than 1,000 victims of child abuse at the hands of priests. Most had happened decades earlier, but the details and extent of the abuse were first made public in 2018. They also exposed the cover-up and mismanagement of church leaders.

There is still a lot of confusion among Catholics about the sexual abuse crisis. And for good reason.

So when we talk about the sexual abuse crisis, we are not talking about one crisis but two. Or what some have called the “twin crises” of abuse and institutional cover-up.

It’s not exactly an easy story to follow. Or the stomach.

Here has America, we wanted to know what people Know about the crisis of violence and how they thought about it. Like Kerry Weber, editor-in-chief at America, asks in a new episode of the “Church Meets World” podcast:

Do you hear about it in the homilies? Has it changed the way you give to church? Has it changed your willingness to allow your children to participate in certain parts of the church and in the ministries there?

To find the answers, we reached out to CARA, the Center for Applied Research and Apostolate, at Georgetown University. It is the premier source of Catholic data and statistics for the American Church.

What the data shows is that 57% of Catholics surveyed said they paid “a lot” or “enough” attention to the issue.

[Related: Three years after the 2018 ‘summer of shame,’ what do American Catholics think about the sex abuse crisis?]

It is more than half, which is not nothing. But it still shocked me. Because I was upset when I read the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. And in my own attempt to understand the crisis, I spent the next nine months after its release creating a podcast with America Media called “Deliver Us,” a 12-episode deep dive into the issue.

So I’m a little biased, it’s true.

But what’s more, the attention of Catholics to this issue has essentially stabilized since CARA first asked the question in 2007. At that time, 56 percent of respondents said they were paying a lot of attention. to the abuse crisis. In other words, all of the revelations surrounding McCarrick and the grand jury report barely had an impact on how Catholics responded to the crisis. So what’s going on there? And how could Catholics still be misinformed about what is going on in our church?

Check out the latest episode of the “Church Meets World” podcast:


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