After the Sex-Abuse Scandal?

What Lies Ahead?

Donald Cozzens

Many hope that the worst of the sexual-abuse crisis is over. Frankly, I fear the worst is yet to come. Consider the battered church of Boston and the not-guilty plea entered on June 11 by accused priest Paul Shanley, who claims he was himself abused by a seminary professor and by a predecessor of his current archbishop. Shanley is likely to put up a strenuous defense, which will bring to light matters church officials would prefer remain in darkness. Should his case go to trial, Boston’s current situation may erupt with a force yet to be imagined.

As prosecutors sift through mountains of diocesan and legal documents relating to clergy abuse and investigate new allegations, the focus has shifted from the church’s jurisdiction to the jurisdiction of prosecutors and grand juries. Add to the criminal inquiries the long roster of civil cases now in the works, and there is scant reason for optimism.

What lies ahead? Catholics of all stripes are asking that question with an earnestness that has not dampened their anger. While the charter and norms established by the bishops in Dallas have prompted some to think the worst is over, church authorities continue to feel the weight of grave, unprecedented pastoral and legal challenges. How bishops and their staffs address these challenges—and to the extent they cooperate and collaborate with emerging lay leaders—will be of...

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About the Author

Sidney Callahan is a psychologist and the author of Created for Joy: A Christian View of Suffering.