WASHINGTON (CNS) — In a time of anger and frustration over the church’s handling of clergy sexual abuse cases, some Catholics might be tempted to withhold donations to the church — especially when urged to do so in a recent column by Marc Thiessen in the Washington Post.
But Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, disagrees. He argues that calls for Catholics to punish the church of today for leaders’ actions in the past fail to take into account the progress that the church has made with regard to the abuse crisis, let alone the limits of it.
“The reader has no idea that the crisis in this country has been licked,” Donohue said, noting that Georgetown University studies commissioned by the bishops have revealed allegations against clergy to be dropping starkly for more than two decades.
Donohue said the exposé on priestly sex abuse done in 2002 by the Boston Globe accurately revealed that the crisis was largely confined to priests who were ordained during the social throes of the 1960s.
“The damage was done to the church during the sexual revolution,” Donohue said. “The way (Thiessen’s) article is written … suggests that we are stuck in the same time warp.”
In an interview with CNS, Donohue said the anger of Catholics over the scandal and allegations of a cover-up are well deserved, but withholding funds is not the right way to go because it holds bishops to account for a crisis that is long in the past.
“A lot of the priests who were delinquent … they’re either out of ministry or dead,” he said. “If we give off the idea that we have not made progress, that is simply wrong.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has acknowledged the anger among laity over the sex abuse crisis. But bishops, particularly younger ones, he said, share in that anger and “want to move with real force” toward solutions, which could yield a new season for the church.
He made the comments at a conference in early February at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
After the Vatican’s Feb. 21-24 summit on child protection and the clerical sexual abuse crisis, which the cardinal attended as USCCB president, he said the proceedings affirmed the U.S. bishops’ strong belief that bishops and cardinals who abuse children or cover up abuse must be held accountable.
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