The unrelenting news cycle has not been kind to the Church this summer, starting with the sex abuse allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in June and continuing with the graphic grand jury report from Pennsylvania earlier this month detailing more than 1,000 allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy over a 70-year period before moving on to this past weekend’s “testimony” by a former apostolic nuncio to the United States, which alleges Pope Francis lifted previous sanctions imposed against Archbishop McCarrick and elevated him to a role as a trusted adviser.
But you know all that, or at least you’ve probably heard about it. It has been very hard to avoid. If you are like me, the news swirling around the Church probably has, at points, confused and angered you. It also likely provoked compassion for victims, for the trauma they have experienced in their lives, and maybe even had you wondering what the implications of all this will be as it continues to play out.
We’ve been reporting on significant developments as they occur, of course, as you would expect us to. A number of readers have encouraged and even demanded we continue to do that. Others have expressed their disillusionment with the Church as an institution and told us so in no uncertain terms.
I do not have all the answers, and I am certainly not in a position to be offering opinions that presume to solve every problem facing the Church in one 650-word dose. The fact of the matter is I have little inside information on any of this stuff.
I know a few things, though, which bear repeating. The original allegation against Archbishop McCarrick was reported to the archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), which began operating in the fall of 2016.
With regard to the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, the program worked exactly the way it has all along. The successful implementation of the IRCP in the Archdiocese of New York has led to its adoption by the Dioceses of Rockville Centre and Brooklyn and could easily serve as a model for other dioceses across the country.
Cardinal Dolan, in a letter addressed to the faithful of the archdiocese, after the issuance of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, noted that the case “involving Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, as gut-wrenching as it was, exemplifies the progress that has been made in dealing with such cases.
“When the Archdiocese of New York received the complaint, we followed our normal protocol as we would for any priest, and everyone involved—from the Vatican on down—agreed that we must deal with the case openly and honestly. It is hard to imagine that such would have been the case 30 years ago.”
Cardinal Dolan has earned our trust for his words and actions over his nearly decade-long tenure as Archbishop of New York. He does not need my validation, but I offer it as one who has watched closely since his first day here. He approaches matters directly, and projects leadership and faith in his dealings with everyone he encounters in the name of the Lord.
Candidly, I understand the specter of clergy abuse and the Church’s response to it are not going away soon. I’m not seeking to tell you how to feel or the best way for you to respond.
What I do offer, as a fellow Catholic, is that you do not let the problems the Church is experiencing to cause you to abandon your faith or the parish to which you belong. Cling closely to your prayer life. Seek to embrace efforts springing up in the Church to support days of prayer and fasting, including a number led by bishops, involving other like-minded people.
This haunting problem must be addressed, and I believe it will be. Don’t let disillusionment cause you to walk away. The Church needs all her members, now more than ever. And the world needs the Church, bruised as she may be, to continue to live out her prophetic mission on behalf of Jesus.