South Bend, Ind., Sep 26, 2019 / 23:07 pm
It has been more than a full year since the sex abuse allegations against the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report set off a shockwave of further abuse accusations and investigations in the Church in the United States and beyond.
It has been 17 years since the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) implemented the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which proposed a “zero-tolerance policy” for child abuse in the Catholic Church in the U.S.
It was just this week that a panel of four experts on the abuse crisis gathered at the University of Notre Dame to discuss the question: “Where are we now?” and to propose ways for the Church to continue moving forward.
Panelists at the Sept. 25 event included Juan Carlos Cruz, an abuse survivor and advocate from Chile whose complaints were initially dismissed by Pope Francis (though were later accepted with an apology from the pope); Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director who helped the USCCB implement the 2002 Dallas Charter; and Peter Steinfels a long-time journalist for Commonweal who wrote a lengthy review of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on the sex abuse crisis. John Allen Jr., editor of Crux, moderated the panel.
While much has improved regarding the clerical sex abuse crisis in the U.S. since 2002, the panelists gave a resounding response that even one case of abuse occurring in the Church is too many, and that a change of hearts and attitudes, and not just of policies, is needed for the Church to progress and for victims to heal.
“The one thing that I am certain about is that most of us, myself very much included, know much less about this painful, stomach-churning scandal than we think we know,” Steinfels said.
Steinfels noted that since 2002, the Church in the U.S. made significant progress in the abuse crisis, reducing the number of cases of sexual abuse from about 600 per year in the 1950s-1970s down to roughly 20 or fewer cases per year, post-Dallas Charter.
“Anyone who obscures this dramatic drop in Catholic clergy abuse, as I think the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report did, is not telling the truth,” he noted.