April 25, 2006

Examine the clergy culture


The Catholic priest sex abuse scandal, much as it involved the individual acts of errant priests, was also a product of a culture, the hierarchical clergy culture, heavily shrouded in secrecy and wrapped in layers of protection from accountability of any sort.

From the first news of this crisis in 1983, through the years of grudging admission by bishops that something was amiss, through the explosion of news in 2002 when the courts forced the release of secret documents in the Boston archdiocese, through the anguish of the meeting in Dallas in June of that same year, the formation of aAbuse Tracker Review Board and ongoing court cases, the tenacity of the clergy culture’s grip on Catholic leadership has been the most evident characteristic of that group’s response.

That’s why this week’s story on the sex abuse cover-up in the Philadelphia archdiocese is significant. It provides a glimpse, brief as it is, into the world of that hierarchical culture and the way it approached the sex abuse crisis. It is a significant piece of history because we have maintained, in more than 20 years of reporting on this crisis in all of its phases, that the church would not get beyond the scandal until its leaders deal with the culture that allowed abusers to float among the community, preying on its youngest and most vulnerable.

Posted by kshaw at April 25, 2006 12:53 PM