Ordinary Catholics must act


The year 2002 was a very bad year for the Catholic Church in the United States. This year could be much worse. California has temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on sexual-abuse cases. Some bishops are engaged in increasingly open efforts to limit the role of the National Review Board that has been appointed to investigate the abuse scandal. Vatican restorationists and their U.S. supporters seem determined to use the crisis to promote their agenda on matters of sex, authority, and ministry. In 1992, University of Notre Dame historian Jay Dolan wrote that the revelation of clerical sexual abuse and its cover-up by bishops was the most serious crisis in the history of American Catholicism. A decade later we have to say, sadly, it’s not over. One reason it’s not over is the absence of leadership in the American Catholic community. The vacuum is obvious among the bishops; even the best of them have found it difficult to explain the situation, communicate regret, accept responsibility, and inspire confidence. Even more striking in some ways is the paralysis of priests, religious orders, leaders of Catholic institutions, scholars, artists, journalists, and lay people generally. Few Catholic leaders have found a national audience. Given the outrage of Catholics across the county, the membership and financial resources of the Boston-based reform group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) remain surprisingly modest....

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

David O'Brien is University Professor of Faith and Culture at the University of Dayton.