January 15, 2021

Open Mic: A Sad but Necessary Discussion

By Chaplain Mike.

The Roman Catholic Church is having a nightmare, and can’t wake up. No longer can the clergy sexual abuse problem be passed off as “an American problem.” Recent developments in Ireland, Germany, and Italy have gotten the world’s attention and criticism has risen to a new level, even to the point where some are calling for the Pope to resign.

This is not something I would prefer to discuss. The subject is unseemly and embarrassing. Strong feelings abound on all sides. There is so much we don’t even know yet.

However, it is my opinion that Christians of all stripes ought to be talking about this, because no matter what one thinks of the Roman Catholic Church, it is clear that the backlash will affect the witness and credibility of all people who confess the faith.

So, in this Open Mic I would like to hear from Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who would be willing to share thoughtful perspectives on this crisis.

I anticipate certain comments:

  • Certain Protestants will say this is merely further evidence that the RC church is apostate.
  • Others will say the problem stems from the requirement of celibacy for clergy.
  • Still others will link this to an overall deficient theology of sexuality promulgated by the church.
  • Some will point to the problem of hierarchy and authority in the Roman church; the structure of institutional power hinders true accountability for the guilty and justice for the victims.
  • In a similar vein, commenters will pin the blame on a culture of mystery and secrecy attached to the roles of priests and bishops that has traditionally led to hesitancy in accusing clergy or holding them accountable. This extends to what some say is an outdated system of justice within the church that requires secrecy and a process that fails to protect or gain justice for victims.
  • Certain Catholics might say that the problem is not unique to the Roman church, just more easily identified because of the institutional and clerical nature of the church. The percentage of abusers in other religious organizations may be the same; we just don’t have the data.

Whatever your view, I’d like to hear your contribution. I will give plenty of leeway in this discussion, but I won’t tolerate meanness, name-calling, or abusive language.

I would especially like to hear from our Catholic friends and learn what is happening on the ground, in your local parish with regard to this issue. Is it being discussed? Is your priest speaking or writing publicly about it? Is your church community going the extra mile to model integrity in this area and protect children?

The mic is yours.


  1. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Things has gotten even worse since you posted this.

    The official Vatican reply on the news this morning sounded like whoever was in charge of damage control was drinking the Conspiracy Kool-Aid, claiming it was all a conspiracy of lies “by Powerful Lobbies” attacking the Church.

    The morning drive-time radio jocks are having a field day with this, including “Benedictus, the former Hitler Youth”, “Cardinal-pedophile Mahoney” being replaced by “Archbishop-pedophile (new archbishop’s name)”, and “John Paul II, Patron Saint of Child Molestors”.

    Has there been any commenting from Evangelicals on this? Four years ago when cable channels were “All Da Vinci Code, All the Time”, there were Evangelicals cheering on the movie to stick it to those Romish Papists. With no concept of themselves ending up as Collateral Damage.

    • Pfffttt.

      what a joke!

    • Now that you’ve mentioned it, I ran a quick google search and only found two non-Catholic, non-secular sources. And one I couldn’t tell who the source was. Not sure if I need to be more specific in the search engine or what, but it seems like it shouldn’t require much prompting.

  2. First of all, I want to start out by telling you all that this Catholic is very disappointed in what some members of of my Church’s hierarchy have done and/or failed to do in this scandal. I am NOT, however, disappointed in The Church, as I believe as She proposes, that She is the Bride of Christ, and is not a mere human institution.

    I don’t believe Priest celibacy is the issue. If it was, as others have stated, we wouldn’t have sexual abuse by persons in positions of authority in Protestant denominations, schools, families, etc. I DO believe, based on factual data in the John Jay study, and the best information available from modern psychology, that the problem is a problem of psycho-sexually immature men being allowed into positions of authority with respect to minors. Heterosexual psycho-sexually mature men are unlikely to engage in sexual behavior with other males of any age. In general, I would suppose similar could be said regarding any sex regarding adult:child attraction, regardless of whether it’s same- or opposite-sex attraction. I’m not condoning same-sex behavior, nor am I condemning those who have the cross of same-sex attraction.

    We don’t have a Priest shortage due to lack of vocations. We have no shortage of vocations. We DO have a problem with some less-than-orthodox seminaries who essentially ran off good candidates to the priesthood because they were regarded as “Too Conservative” (read: too orthodox in their Catholicism), and a reading of “: How Liberals Brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church” by Michael S. Rose explains all about it, including how this helped create the conditions for the scandal.

    We don’t know much about the Vatican handling of all this, because, frankly, I don’t think much of it actually got to the Vatican; certainly not in a timely manner. One of the reasons why what did get to the JPII administration is due to a little-known fact that during the Nazi era and up through the Cold War, the enemies of the Church in Berlin, Moscow, etc. would use claims of homosexual behavior against religious authorities they wanted to silence. JPII and his “Polish Mafia” et al. tended to be dismissive of such claims, having seen it before, and would naturally be expected to. That’s not to excuse any actual inaction in Rome, but it does allow for better understanding of the bigger problem of official inaction in Rome. I don’t think the same applies to +Ratzinger as Card. Prelate of the CDF (he’s largely responsible for the changes in procedure and responsibility that speed the process of laicization of Priest-abusers) and certainly not since becoming Pope Benedict XVI, where he’s spoken in no uncertain terms that this will not be tolerated. Papa Benedetto has taken the reins. The hard part is getting some unruly mules to respond to plow-reining when they’re used to neck-reigning. Luckily, IMHO, some of those unruly mules (the bishops) are closing fast on their 75th birthday, and in the RCC, that means mandatory submission of a request to retire. The Pope doesn’t have to accept, but if a bishop isn’t true to the Faith and disciplines of the Church, you can probably bet it will be accepted of him.

    I have no issue with valid news reports, but lately, it’s just been a “pile-on” and much of it poorly sourced, heavily inaccurate. In the Milwaukee Fr. Murphy case, it’s been particularly poor, with an online translation of a CDF document from Italian to English passed off by the NYT writer as being damning evidence of CDF misfeasance, when the Judicial Vicar, Fr. Brundage warned in his letter that “It is a very rough translation and the computer certainly cannot distinguish some of the peculiarities of canon law.” See catholicnewsagency.com/news/italian_political_paper_ny_times_needs_consultants_more_than_vatican_does/

    I can’t prove it, but the very tone of some articles is an indicator to me of what Saul Alinsky and like-minded individuals describe as “never letting a good scandal go to waste.” The timing of this last is certainly an indicator. Let’s face it: Rome is very much against what most of the mainstream press supports, namely ABORTION. There is no single larger and more VOCAL OPPONENT of abortion than the Roman Catholic Church.

    Don’t be confused by anyone who tells you that the mainstream Catholic subscribes to “America Magazine” or the “National Catholic Reporter” (aka “Distorter”) or what’s printed in them. They are the dissenting viewpoint. If 10% of the Catholics in the US subscribe to either or both, I’d be surprised. Per searchdotcom “America” circulation is about 45,000, and NCReporter has about 44,000 (per Catholicdotorg records for all Catholic print media) and that same report shows Indiana-based “Our Sunday Visitor,” a typical, middle-of-the-road mainstream (read, more-or-less orthodox) Catholic news and Catholic Life journal gets 66,000, and NCRegister (the orthodox Catholic newspaper), gets 35,500. There are some 70 million Catholics in the US.

    • Oh, and I’ll leave you with this thought I found on a reply to a recent article on Yahoo! News regarding the scandal.

      Recall that 8.33% of the orginal Church leadership was so utterly corrupt
      that it was party to the betrayal and murder of Christ Himself. Should we
      expect better? Yet the antipathy here has a pedigree extending back to the
      courtyard in Palestine where screams of “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” were
      first heard.

      We now enter Holy Week, toward Good Friday and the Sacred Triduum. Could
      there be a more timely affirmation of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic

      Jpelham (yahoo profile)

    • The book title was “Goodbye Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church” by Michael S. Rose

  3. Some years ago, the Oakland Diocese held an amazing ceremony in which survivors of clergy abuse told their stories (no press allowed during the service), to about several dozen priests who listened quietly, then went through a formal public apology and commitment to prevent further abuse. As I recall, at least half the speakers came from protestant backgrounds; one or two were Jewish. The litany of the service and resources can be found at http://www.oakdiocese.org/survivors/index.htm

    It was a touching service, just a start — and notably so far from the crap that keeps coming out of the Vatican, especially labeling those who question the party line as gossips.

    Also, as I recall, the impetus for the service and the various services of the diocese to deal with clergy abuse came from the nuns and others who listened to the pain all around them.

    As a child, I knew such abuse happened, because my dad led the charge in our protestant, evangelical church to deal with a suspected molester; he was outvoted. The pastor stayed, because no one could believe such a thing, so they just called dad un-Christian and other terrible names.

    Abuse comes in many forms, in all faiths/ The more we’re unwilling to face it, the worse it gets. The more we are willing to speak truth to power and hear it said to us, the more we can clean up the deep wells of wisdom in all faiths. And God knows, we are all thirsty for truth, whatever denominational well it comes from.

  4. This is the best analysis I have seen so far:


    Don’t let the title put you off- the reality is that there is indeed a problem in the Church AND that its enemies are using it to try to weaken, if not destroy, it. Both are true, which is something the polarizers choose to disregard.

    I went through my crisis of faith when the first widespread reporting of these scandals took place several years ago. Our diocese had one of the more egregious cases- our bishop had accepted for ordination a man whose own family, including his annulled ex-wife, had submitted affadavits stating clearly that he should not be allowed access to children.

    After working through the initial horror, anger and disgust, I came to a couple of conclusions:
    There is nothing in the BIble or the Catechism that condones the sexual abuse of minors.
    Molestors and their enablersare sinful abberations of what the Church actually teaches.
    The vast majority of priests are decent, even holy, men.
    The Church was learning from its past actions, which were shameful for whatever resaons you would like to name.
    There was no church body that did not have the same problem. (Note: this is not the “everyone does it” excuse. It simply means that there was no other “perfect” church to go to as an alternative.)
    I couldn’t conceive of a life without the sacraments, a life separated from the Church. (For our non-Catholic readers who think this is Ecclesiolatry, all I can say is our understanding of “church” can be profoundly different- it’s hard to explain.)

    That is why I decided to remain.

    I ‘ll second other commenters : get the facts- from all sides- first. Be aware that Church documents may contain technical terms that should be understood in their particular context- like legal terms. If they were originally in a foreign language, they need to be translated correctly. Consider time lines. And then come to your conclusions.

  5. There’s been sexual abuse in my family. My nephew was abused (though not by a priest); he did not tell his parents, but he did turn around and abuse his younger sister and brother. My sister’s family is in wreckage and there is no amount of counseling that will fix it. So no, to answer some commentator above, I’m not so “pious” that I can’t give a thought to the victims. I very nearly left the Catholic Church out of absolute disgust – but doing that would have been to walk away from Christ as well. I wanted to (and sometimes still do); I couldn’t. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life.”

    What I am watching most closely is not the diocesan scandals, but the scandal surrounding the Legionaries of Christ religious order. In brief, their founder was an abuser who founded and structured the order specifically to suit his habits; the order is under a Vatican investigation which concludes at the end of April. I’m an armchair analyst but if the Vatican wants to be taken seriously, it will dissolve that order and find other places for the priests in it. There are many good men in that order but it’s ultimate reason for existing was to permit Maciel to find and exploit his victims. It needs to be shut down.

  6. Anonymous says

    I was abused by a pedophile for 10 years, beginning at age 2. This man was my own biological father. I can’t describe how it was to live like this for so long, except to say that it was a nightmare. At the same time I was attending a parochial school. From the very first time that I heard of Jesus, at 5 years old, I loved Him and believed Him. As I grew older, I regarded my church and school as my safe haven. I wished I could have just stayed there all the time. But each day I had to go home. This dual life has produced many lasting difficulties for me. As I get older, my thoughts get more complicated both worldly and spiritually. However, I know my faith is secure. And Jesus has given me much peace in the knowledge of belonging to Him.

    I have tried to think about the differences between my situation and those that have suffered from Catholic priests, or any church worker. I wonder if it is worse coming from your own father or a priest of the church. A priest is called “Father.” It seems to me they are equally damaging. Both involve huge trust, and now trust is totally broken. I have heard in the past that if you have a “bad” father it is easy to get this mixed up with the Father in heaven. Trust will be a problem for both. People will blame the father or the priest or an uncle or cousin and lose their faith in God. I am grateful to God that I never got confused about this. My heavenly Father, and my earthly father, were two seperate entities.

    Back when this happened to me (50+ years ago), there was seemingly no help. Children weren’t believed. And it was completely quiet in society as if “it” didn’t exist. The first time I heard a news report of an arrest of a molester, I was in my early 40’s. Hearing the report verbalized stung me and made me feel numb.

    Did I ever try to tell anyone? Yes. Policeman. School officials. Pastor. A judge. Social workers. Psychiatrist. Counselors. There was no help or advice given except to try to help me feel better. The judge–told me I should be a support group counselor. I had not overcome this, how could I lead anyone else?

    After the Pastor was made aware of the circumstances (he, in fact, told me not to tell anyone else about it), continued to let my dad take communion for years. And when he left church, he continued in his ways. That brings me to the problem. Church discipline. I honestly don’t see it happening, and haven’t in my 60 years of church-going. If these professionals didn’t know what to do, how could I? Should’nt he have been put out of the church? Did they want to avoid the problem? I think so. I believe church discipline should be exercised. It is documented in Scripture. But we tend to only emphasize Grace. Which I totally believe in. A pastor tends to only want to deal in love and forgiveness. But is Grace meant to be a blanket forgiveness for known unrepentant people? That is a major problem I have had with church teaching for all these years. I honestly couldn’t understand. Also, training about this area must have been lacking for these professionals. If my dad would have been put out, or arrested and put in prison, would the church have aided my family? I don’t think so. In the end, everyone is to blame. We practice religion more than we practice God’s Word.

    In the end for me, my greatest salvation and healing are from Jesus Christ. Jesus helped me remain sane. That does not mean all of my repercussions have ceased. I am excited for heaven where all will finally be over.

  7. Christian says

    I am a former RC. Went to parochial schools, both grade school and high school. I am one of 11 children in a big old Catholic family. I also seriously considered and actively pursued religious life in my twenties. I then met and married an ex-nun, conservative Carmelite. We were both conservative catholics, and lived in those circles. My room mates were Regnum Christi members, a lay apostolate of the Legionaries of Christ. To make a long story short through study of the Scripture and much prayer, I became utterly convinced of the Doctrines of Grace as espoused by Reformed Theology, and am now pursuing an MDiv at Covenant Theological Seminary PCA. Several things drove me away from the Roman church, not least of which was the serious doctrinal issues. But the response to the scandals from most of the conservative catholic culture I was involved with was nothing short of terrifying. The posture was immediately defensive of the church and dismissive of the severity of the sin. I am weary of statistical evidence, because it is notoriously unreliable and easy to twist, so when someone says, “If you look at it statistically, the Roman church is no worse than any one else.” I’m not utterly convinced. But in my own life, experiential evidence has spoken volumes. Every parish I have been involved in and every catholic school my family has been involved in has had some abuse issue from the catholic clergy, without exception. Then when I lived with the Regnum Christie members and the news broke about Fr. Marciel, a man they practically worshipped, they would not acknowledge it, discuss it, criticize it. In fact, some still maintain his innocence! There seems to me a kind of stockholm syndrome mentality going on, the likes of which gave me the strong feeling of cultish bondage. One Regnum Christie member friend of mine has had terrible experience after terrible experience and yet won’t leave “the fold”, and has tried to convince me to re-enter…..Um no thanks. In our home church, which is by no means perfect, we have community meetings which involve Scripture, prayer and transparency. Our pastors come before us and give an account of their ministry and life. It’s not like we rake them over the coals, but it provides room to bring things into the light, for exposure, and repentance if needs be. We do exercise Biblical church discipline; persistent, unrepentant sin is addressed and dealt with, always pastorally and with grace and sometimes with severe mercy. I know our pastors, I know their families, we pray, walk, talk, cry, sing and do life together. I never experienced anything like this in the roman church. Nothing even close. We revered priests but in a creepy way, they were always…other. I don’t see the roman priesthood as congruent with the apostolic witness in Scripture. Acorn to oak tree analogies just don’t cut it. I have been labeled a heretic and schismatic by many catholics. My response? Look at my wrist as if I am wearing a watch, at best I’ve got 50 years left in me, and then the Judgement. We’ll let Jesus render that verdict. His Word is Truth. God is True and every man a liar. He knows His sheep.

    • We’re still operating on a village-church model, which works fine in a village…or even in a small-town parish such as mine, where you’ll see Father out shopping on Main Street or going out to eat with friends. We are a parish family/community in fact as well as name. But in a large-city parish, with 3,000+ families, where only so many people can personally know the priest, and he can enjoy urban anonymity as easily as the next person? We haven’t figured that part out yet. And you see the results.

  8. All churches and denominations are basically divided into two groups: those who are ‘born again’ and those who are not; this includes the clergy. Therefore it is possible for some clergy to be guilty of some of the most horrid sins.

    • The problem with that comment is it fails to take into account that we have professedly “born again” people in professedly ‘born again’ groups doing the same things. (NB: Just because the RCC doesn’t talk unceasingly about being ‘born again’ doesn’t mean we don’t believe you have to be ‘born again.’ We just look at it in a different fashion.) Now, if you change the first sentence to “all people” versus “all churches and denoms” you have a much stronger argument.

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