It is evident that the Catholic Church is incapable on its own of exorcising the scourge of clergy sex abuse. The scandal raged unchecked for decades and, even after it was exposed in 2002 by the Boston Globe , has been met by the church hierarchy with denial, temporizing, stone walling and half-measures.
Even as the bishops of Americas 196 Catholic dioceses and archdioceses gathered in Baltimore Monday to grapple with the latest major revelations a Pennsylvania grand jurys report from August detailing decades of abuse involving more than 1,000 victims and at least 300 priests they were stopped in their tracks by an abrupt message from the Vatican, which asked them to hold off. That intercession arrived along with a warning from Pope Franciss ambassador in the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who seemed to scoff at the proposal, which the bishops had been set to vote on, to establish a lay commission that would assess bishops misconduct as if we were no longer capable of reforming or trusting ourselves, as he put it.
That remark crystallized the arrogance that has often characterized the churchs stance even as countless exposés have laid bare the culpability of its leaders. From high and low, the church has broadcast its conviction that its own transgressions are no worse than that of other institutions; that state statutes of limitations that shield dioceses from lawsuits should be preserved; that no foothold may be allowed for mechanisms to discipline bishops who have enabled abuse by transferring pedophile priests from parish to parish.