The sexual abuse scandal is the never ending story.
This week, authorities in Houston raided the offices of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, who’s the archbishop of the Houston-Galveston Catholic Dioceses. Being the archbishop of the fourth largest city in America is pretty significant, but DiNardo is also the President of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The raid was related to the Houston diocese handling of sexual assault allegations against a local priest named Manuel La Rosa-Lopez.
It’s been a rough few months for the Catholic Church in America, largely because of self-inflicted wounds. In July, the New York Times ran a cover story alleging sexual abuse of a Catholic seminarian perpetrated by Theodore McCarrick, a Catholic Cardinal, who had retired as the archbishop of Washington D.C. in 2006. Shortly after the Times story was released, McCarrick resigned as a cardinal. He’s the highest ranking American Catholic to have been accused of abuse. But there were also Catholic leaders who say that they had heard of these allegations and reported them up the chain, prior to the July story.
In August, Carlo Vigano, who had served as the archbishop nuncio to the United States (basically the Vatican ambassador to America) wrote that he had previously reported on McCarrick, as had Vigano’s predecessor. The abuses were swept under the rug.
There were several stories about Vigano this summer. Vigano is a pretty credible person to be making those claims. Vatican gave smoke and mirrors. Pope Francis asked people to pray for the Catholic Church in these “attacks from the devil.”
Chicago archbishop Blasé Cupich brushed off Vigano saying: “The pope knows we have a bigger agenda. We have to speak about the environment, about the poor, we have to reach out to people who are marginalized in society. We cannot be distracted at this moment,”
The hits kept coming.
In August, a Grand Jury Report came out in Pennsylvania, investigating eight of Pennsylvania’ diocese. They found evidence spanning decades of hundreds of priests allegedly sexually assaulting over a thousand children.
When that report was released, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro talked about a “sophisticated cover up,” and claimed they even had evidence that the Vatican was aware of the cover up.
Pennsylvania had been the former stomping grounds of Cardinal Donal Wuerl, who had succeeded McCarrick as the archbishop of Washington D.C. Wuerl had previously been archbishop of Pittsburgh and was one of the names named by Vigano. Wuerl resigned in October.
And now we come to Houston. It’s possible that DiNardo knew nothing of the current allegations within his diocese. But it doesn’t look good that it’s a question that even has to be asked of the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops when there’s already a major scandal.
What has been seen is that higher ups have known about abuses and covered up abuses. Which gets at a major crux of the problem: then who is going to actually work to fix the problems?
Because the Catholic Church continues to fail at fixing the problem. And some (not all) Catholics are apologists and want to talk about all of the steps that are being taken. Grand conspiracies to cover up child sexual abuse is an abomination. In America, it’s taking grand juries and local law enforcement to get to the truth, because the Catholic Church is failing.
Next February, the Vatican is hosting a summit on these clerical abuses. This week, Blase Cupich (Mr. Environment) was tapped as one of the organizers for the summit. I was immediately skeptical of this selection. In addition to talking about how the Pope had to focus on the environment (something he doesn’t’ control) rather than being troubled with an imploding sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church (something he does control), said they weren’t “going to go down a rabbit hole” on Vigano’s credible allegations.
It all seems reactionary and slow to come. And my concern is that it still won’t fix the problems. People can try to dismiss these issues as being things that happened a long time ago, but when many of the higher ups within the church are being shown to have had knowledge (or in McCarrick’s case, to be the perpetrator), it remains a major crisis.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.