Barbara Underwood, Attorney General of New York, is initiating an investigation of child abuse by Catholic priests of all of the dioceses of the state. Other states, including New Jersey, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Mexico are also planning to initiate investigations. The Catholic bishops of New York have stated their intention to cooperate with the investigations.
In spite of evidence that the abuse of children is far more widespread among employees of the state public schools and among the ministers of other faith traditions, so far only the Catholic Church will be targeted by these investigations.
I do not believe Catholics are angry about these investigations taking place. I’ve had a number of conversations with other Catholics and have read innumerable articles about this matter, and have not heard or read of one instance of a Catholic expressing anger over the fact that these crimes are being exposed. I am convinced that most Catholics see such investigations as ultimately having a healing effect on the Church and on abuse victims. The voice of the victims needs to be heard. The rot must be cleared out. The pus must be drained. This is a good thing.
Will people leave the Church over this? Likely. But, if someone is going to separate from the company of the Apostles because Judas betrayed Jesus, then there is serious question about in whom that someone’s faith was placed, anyway. Saying, “I’m going to leave the Body of Christ because I’m so faithful to Christ!” just doesn’t make sense. One doesn’t abandon one’s faith in Christ because of the sins of Judas, or the sins of Peter, or Andrew, or James, or John … or Ted. Since I was never saved by the gospel of Theodore McCarrick, I have no intention of allowing his sins to lead me to perdition. My own sins are sufficient for that! As such, my trust remains in the redemptive mission of Christ and His Church.
But, Catholics are angry. We are angry at the priests who committed these horror and at the bishops and other administrators who helped cover them up. We are angry at those who knew of the abuse committed by someone like McCarrick and remained silent, even as he rose in rank and influence in the Church. We are angry that lifestyles of sin and debauchery among our priests were and continue to be tolerated, and that sound moral teaching was and continues to be cast aside out of deference to a false notion of “pastoral care and concern.” We are angry that so many of our leaders in the Church continue to lend a deaf ear to the demands for justice, that those who allowed these horrors to happen be removed from office. We are angry that the focus of too many of our bishops continues to be on making excuses for those who have tolerated false teaching and immoral living, and in safe-guarding their positions.
But, I also believe that there is cause for anger over the selective outrage targeting the Catholic Church by secular officials, and over the motives behind this selective outrage. I am convinced, for instance, that the grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania was initiated partly to deflect attention away from the fact that Pennsylvania has one of the nation’s highest rates of abuse by public school employees, and partly by the political ambitions of Josh Shapiro. I certainly give no credence to the notion that a man who so whole-heartedly supports the killing of children in the womb, and who has been silent on the abuse of children by employees of the state government for whom he works, is motivated by genuine concern for the victims of priestly abuse. I am also convinced that the Catholic Church is singled out for these investigations in an effort to discredit and, thus, silence the Catholic voice on political and social matters. I am also concerned that the focus on the Catholic Church will deflect from those areas of public and private life where abuse is far more widespread, as it has already led to a two-tiered system of justice in some states for victims of abuse by priests and victims of abuse by others. I am concerned that the creation in the minds of the public of a stereotype of the Church as corrupt to the core will be exploited to limit the liberty of the Church in the public square and even to practice the faith, as some have already called for suspending due process for accused priests and attempts have already been made by at least one state legislature to control the Church’s organization and pastoral activity.
Barbara Underwood became acting-Attorney General of New York when her predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, was forced out of office because of accusations of sexual and physical abuse by four women. So far, there are no plans to launch an investigation into sexual abuse committed by employees of the Attorney General’s office.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.