The week had much news about the Roman Catholics in America. On one hand they are again faced with the great shame. On the other other they must accept the great blame for the result they brought about.
In the former case the news was about the report relative to the investigation of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who was defrocked by Pope Francis in 2019. There was shame to go around for many. One wonders when does the bleeding stop?
It was as far back as 2002, almost 20 years ago, when the Boston Globe first published its Spotlight Series on the priests involved in sexually abusing others. After that throughout the country disclosures came forth showing the Boston diocese was not alone. Now, today we again see the opprobrium heaped upon the Catholic Church for its covering up and countenancing this evil.
The tragedy is that the Church which offers so much has suffered a mass exodus of young people who were unable to separate the chaff from the wheat, the latter being the priests, bishops and cardinals who acted in a manner commensurate with their teachings. How though could you blame these youth when it was learned through cases like that of Cardinal Law that priests who were sexually abusing minors were merely switched from one diocese to another to continue their illicit activities?
It became clear that the reputation of the Church was more important than the safety of the people. For some reason it never occurred to the bishops and cardinals that the cover would be blown off and the reputation would be left in tatters. Cardinal Law would say in his report on his life to Harvard at his 50th reunion: “Obviously, I wish I would have had the insight I have now about many problems, especially the terrible scourge of the sexual abuse of children. Hindsight would have avoided some horrible mistakes.”
He left me scratching his head wondering, “how is it that he did not have that insight?” If such a learned man as Cardinal Law lacked it why should he ever have had such an exalted position in the Church. What made it worse he fled to Rome where his lack of insight was rewarded by Pope John Paul II who appointed him archpriest of the Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major showing he too did not understand the gravity of the situation.
In 1999 Cardinal John O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York, was among those who attempted to warn Catholic leaders and dissuade them from promoting McCarrick. He wrote a 1999 letter to the American nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican’s representative in the U.S., saying he had “grave fears” about McCarrick being promoted because “rumors and allegations about the past might surface with such an appointment, with the possibility of accompanying grave scandal and widespread adverse publicity.”
Ignoring that and “despite having commissioned an inquiry that confirmed [McCarrick] slept with seminarians” Pope John Paul naively believed McCarrick’s last-ditch, handwritten denial and appointed McCarrick to archbishop of Washington, D.C.
Was it so hard to understand that those who sexually abuse children should be kept away from them and put in prison? Cardinal McCarrick a smooth talking prelate and known for his fund raising ability could have been stopped. He was ignored. The consequences are felt to this day.
That sad news of the opening of the old wound was not the only news about Catholics. From what is being reported the Catholics are the ones who Trump can blame for his defeat. The Catholics who deserted Trump and went with Biden apparently made the difference in the swing states. It is reported: “Among white Catholics, 57% backed Trump and 42% backed Biden, according to VoteCast. In 2016, Trump won 64% of white Catholics and Clinton won 31%, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of voters.” The decrease of 7% from 2016 along with the increase over Clinton of 11% spelled Trump’s doom in the Rust Belt. Add in the Hispanic Catholics, VoteCast shows 67% backed Biden and 32% backed Trump.
It is estimated that close to half of the Catholics in America are Hispanic: the latest figures in 2017 show white Catholics comprise 55% of the Church membership with Hispanics making up 36% of the national Catholic presence. But three years later when you realize, “Today, less than 36% of Catholics under the age of 30 are white, while 52% of the same group are Hispanic” you accept that Hispanics are nearing the 50% figure which they will quickly surpass, especially since they are much more involved in the Church than whites as shown here.
That, of course is not a concern for Trump alone. It is a big problem for the Catholic Church. David Gibson, director of Fordham University’s Center on Religion and Culture wrote: “If the Republican Party continues to try to amplify calls to white grievance and fear of immigrants in order to rally the white Catholic vote, that could create further problems for the Catholic Church itself as it seeks unity,”
Pope Francis tells us of “the Church’s commitment to eradicate this evil” of child abuse which indicates it still continues. The white members of the Catholic Church are said to embrace “white grievance and fear of immigrants.” One can only ask what will become of the Catholic Church wherein in the Nicene Creed, Catholics profess, “We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” when so many refuse to embrace the others.