Wineke: The Catholic record on abuse seems hopeless

Wineke: The Catholic record on abuse seems hopeless

At some point, I think we have to accept the growing conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is not serious about sex abuse, never has been and, most likely, never will be.

I realize that’s kind of a damning statement, especially from a Protestant clergyman who ought to be careful about stones and glass houses.

But, to me, the final straw came Sunday when Cardinal Donald Wuerl, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., admitted he has been lying through his teeth about his predecessor, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

McCarrick, now an old man, has been accused of sexually abusing seminarians for decades, even as he reigned as one of the top churchmen in the United States.

Wuerl initially said he knew nothing about it. Now it appears, that he not only knew about it, but reported it to the Vatican in 2004.

There has just been an unending stream of admissions about priestly abuse. It involves theologically conservative clerics. It involves theologically liberal clerics. It involves bishops and it most surely involves popes.

McCarrick was a much-admired liberal bishop. Opus Dei, a popular conservative movement, admitted recently it paid out near $1 million to settle charges against Father C.J. McCluskey, a theological and political conservative who led such right-wing luminaries as Newt Gingrich, Sam Brownback, Larry Kudlow and Robert Bork to the faith.

It is also now clear that reports of such transgressions reached the Vatican by 2002.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II ran the church. He had to know about all this. He did nothing. The church recently made him a saint.

Saint John Paul is a hero of the right. Pope Francis is a hero of the left. Francis has defended McCarrick and Wuerl as long as he could.

The church’s far-right wing, some of it located here in Wisconsin, is sustaining a major campaign to destroy Francis, much of it centered on Francis’ unwillingness to blame homosexuals for the church’s problems.

It’s pretty obvious he hasn’t done enough. But, again, John Paul was pope in 2002. The church made him a saint. Come to think of it, Francis was pope when John Paul was sainted.

I have been writing about religion since 1964. I know that Catholic priests are not the only villains in the child sex abuse problem. I’ve never seen evidence to suggest a priest is any more likely to abuse a child than is a Protestant clergyman or a Boy Scout leader or anyone else who chooses to work with children.

What does distinguish the Catholic Church is that it has a rigid hierarchy. That hierarchy has worked to protect bad priests and bishops and it has worked to destroy those who would point out the truth, including another Wisconsin priest, Father Thomas Doyle, a Spring Green native who, again in the early days, was the bishop’s point man on abuse – before he was dismissed.

Is anything really going to change? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t bet any money on it.

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