“Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”
Those words by Saint Catherine of Siena appear most fitting this summer as the Catholic Church in the United States grapples with allegations of widespread sex abuse by priests going back several decades.
In July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick after it was revealed that the 88-year-old former head of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., had allegedly abused a teenage boy for years starting in 1969. It was also made public that McCarrick had been accused in three other sexual assault cases involving seminarians.
Last month, a Pennsylvania grand jury released a shocking report filled with decades of allegations regarding sexual abuses by clerics with children and teenagers — and cover-ups by bishops — that reopened a wound within the church regarding pedophilia and homosexuality among the clergy. It also sparked debate for reform regarding whether priests should be allowed to marry like clergy in other Christian denominations.
The incidents came on the heels of sex-abuse scandals that rocked the church in Chile and Australia.
If that wasn’t enough, a whistleblower named Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released an 11-page letter (full text here) on August 25 describing a series of events in which the Vatican — and specifically Pope Francis — had been made aware of McCarrick’s immoral behavior years ago.
Vigano claimed Pope Benedict XVI had placed restrictions on McCarrick, including not allowing him to say Mass in public. Vigano alleges Pope Francis reversed those sanctions. In the letter, Vigano, a former papal ambassador to the United States, said Francis “knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator. He knew that he was a corrupt man, he covered for him to the bitter end.”
Unlike in 2002 — when an investigation by The Boston Globe unearthed decades of abuse by prelates never reported to civil authorities — accusations of wrongdoing within the Catholic Church these days are mixed with sacred and secular politics.