The uniquely agonizing betrayal of abusive priests


National Post, 12 September 2018

The revelations about Cardinal McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, have shaken many — shaken by shock, shaken by anger

The Catholic world has been embroiled this summer in a series of sexual abuse scandals, both historic and contemporary, in America and abroad. The news, even if doesn’t involve new developments in Canada, reopens old wounds for victims — or pours salt in wounds that have never fully healed. Many faithful parishioners are also hurt, embarrassed and irate. That too goes for priests who are implicated by a sacramental bond in what their brothers do, both holy or, in these cases, horrific.

The grave sins and crimes of those who swore before God to live like the Lord Jesus are doubly wicked. Yes, it is true that in Canada for some 25 years and in the United States for some 15 years there has been a veritable revolution in the speedy removal of offending priests from ministry. Yes, safeguarding measures for minors are now ubiquitous. Yes, the number of cases has fallen dramatically. Yes, yes, yes. But no, none of that makes the current moment seem less painful.

The revelations about the predatory behaviour of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, have shaken many — shaken by shock, shaken by anger. It’s not only his high rank, but that he was a key figure in the very reforms the American bishops adopted in 2002.

His double life does not invalidate the value of those reforms, but it does make his betrayal all the more treacherous.

Perhaps I might offer a comparison. When the news about Harvey Weinstein broke, that he had abused his position to sexually exploit many actresses, it was certainly distressing to hear but did not touch me personally.

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