Last fall, the Archdiocese of Boston released an ambitious plan designed to stem the decline it has experienced—in priests, Mass attendance, and treasure—since the 2002 wave of sexual-abuse scandals. Whether the plan will work remains an open question. That something needs to be done is a sentiment shared widely among Boston-area Catholics.
Pope Francis looks poised to address Vatican reform with his appointment of an international panel of cardinals charged with making recommendations to improve the Roman curia. Bringing outsiders in for a close look seems to be the point, but it’s not the first time this has happened.
Catholics at both ends of the ideological spectrum look to a new pope for encouragement. And from the moment he made his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s, Francis seems to have given nearly everyone a reason to cheer. But whatever the direction in which the new pope steers the church, U.S. Catholics struggling to make a life of faith in what is admittedly a vertiginous moral and cultural landscape will continue to take surprising turns, confounding the usual categories.
In winning election as Pope Francis, Jorge Mario Bergoglio defied the papal pundits, even though they should have seen him coming. His rise marks the decisive shift within Roman Catholicism toward Latin America and the developing world.
What can the next pope learn from Benedict, and what should we seek from him? Our special series concludes with new stories from William L. Portier and Richard R. Gaillardetz.
The humility of Benedict's decision to give up power will affect future papacies, all to the good.
John Thavis presents many stories that will make you laugh. Others may make you cry.
Divisions in the church are usually seen as mimicking those of secular politics. Conservatives or traditionalists are pitted against liberals or progressives. But Timothy Radcliffe, a Dominican friar and the former head of his order, suggests a more fruitful way to understand the Catholic split.
Evaluations of Benedict's tenure have balanced the pros and cons of his deeds according to the lights of the balancer. What is untallied, except for his failure to unmistakably demand accountability in regard to clerical sexual abuse, is what has remained undone. Underlying conditions like the limitations of the clergy or the eroding credibility of church teachings on sexuality are no better than when he took office.
Even Benedict's most ardent supporters concede that his papacy has been marred by too many scandals and too many gaffes. And the courtly secrecy surrounding the deliberations to elect the next pope provides a reminder of the lack of transparency and accountability in the operations of the entire hierarchy.
Now It's Rome's Turn
Benedict, Eight Years Later
This is the long-term historical context of the papacy Benedict XVI will resign: one that became more monarchical in the nineteenth century (as a reaction against the democratization of modern political systems), and that is now more centralized than ever before—despite Vatican II.
Benedict is a traditionalist who was affected by modernity. He would not be troubled that he had to reach far back to find a precedent for papal resignation. He knows that a pope hobbled by sickness and weakness would be a dispiriting symbol in a media age. Then again, perhaps his traditionalism inclined him to this decision.
To understand dissent, you first have to understand authority. Authority in the church must be based on truth. Episcopal authority is not the source of truth, as some would have us believe.
Confronting Sexual Abuse in the Boy Scouts & the Church
When the Bishops Surrendered Their Religious Liberty
A new report scandalizes an already diminished flock
In July, Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny delivered a stinging indictment of the Vatican’s handling of the sexual-abuse scandal in his country. Referring to a new report on the scandal in the Diocese of Cloyne, Kenny blasted what he called “the dysfunction, the disconnection, [and] the elitism that dominate the culture of the Vatican today.” Last month, the Vatican issued its disappointing reply.
The second John Jay report & the Vatican's letter to bishops
A new report on the "causes & context" of the sexual-abuse crisis
When a Philadelphia grand jury found "substantial evidence of abuse" committed by 37 priests in ministry, it criticized the archdiocese's review board: "In cases where the...review board has made a determination [about those cases], the results have often been even worse than no decision at all.” What happened?
How not to write about the cardinal & his time
The abuse crisis resurfaces in Philadelphia
Ratzinger, church law & the sexual-abuse crisis
The church, sexual abuse, and challenges of leadership
In 1922, the Vatican issued norms for handling the canonical crime of the sexual abuse of minors by priests. The document was revised in 1962, and remained in force until 2001. Why did so few bishops know about it?
A selection of articles from Commonweal on Benedict XVI.
A short story by the author of the novels 'The Last to Go' and 'Big as Life.'
The New York Times's worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But what makes the Times unique is that it is not just the nation's self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church.
Much of Pope Benedict's good work in addressing the sexual-abuse crisis is now likely to be brushed aside as the history of his own negligence in handling an abusive priest when he was archbishop of Munich thirty years ago comes to light.
It is now clear that for more than two decades, simultaneous tragedies of episcopal malfeasance played out in both the U.S. and Irish churches, as bishops in both countries systematically mishandled allegations of child sexual abuse committed by their priests.
How window legislation in sexual-abuse suits could undermine our legal system.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese’s historic clergy sexual-abuse settlement.
Lent is a time to take stock, confess sins, and, when necessary, begin anew. It is fitting, then, that the U.S. Catholic bishops have chosen Lent to issue their reports on the church’s catastrophic sexual-abuse crisis. This year’s report from the National Review Board (NRB) and the Office of Child and Youth Protection (OCYP) was published February 12. It makes clear the ongoing need for such an accounting.
During his tenure as cardinal archbishop of Boston, Bernard Law vigorously defended the position of the Catholic Church on abortion, which is sometimes described as an “unspeakable” act in authoritative church teaching. All the while, it turns out, the cardinal was turning a blind eye to another act that most people consider “unspeakable”-the sexual abuse of children or adolescents by Catholic priests within his archdiocese.
The U.S. Catholic bishops’ reports on sexual abuse in the church represent a landmark endeavor. Peter Steinfels goes beyond the numbers to lay out what we’ve learned and what we still don’t know. Fusce fermentum odio quis neque. Phasellus vitae lacus sed enim faucibus euismod.