The McCarrick affair, a turning point for American Catholics

Alexis Buisson , the 14/08/2018 at 6:00

"The stupor, the anger, the disappointment ... I felt all that. But I was not shocked. " Like many in Catholic circles in Newark, New Jersey town which Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was the archbishop - before being appointed in Washington by John Paul II in 2000 and made a cardinal the following year - Robert Hoatson knew . This former priest, who was ordained in the 1990s by this great figure of the American Church, whose Pope Francis just accepted the resignation of the College of Cardinals at the end of July, had heard rumors of touching young people. seminarians and priests perpetrated, in his holiday residence on the seaside, by the one nicknamed "Uncle Ted" ."When I was ordained, I even asked someone who knew him whether he was still sleeping with young priests. I was told no. But everyone knew! "

In 2003, this American Catholic co-founded Road to Recovery, an association that helps "survivors" , like him, of sexual abuse by priests. Since the revelations against the former cardinal, he says he received "a peak of calls" from victims, but also people apologizing to him for not taking him seriously when he denounced the behavior some priests and their superiors. "The McCarrick affair is a turning point for American Catholics ," he says.Before, they had little confidence in the leadership of the Church. Now the link is completely broken. The abuses are horrible, but the hiding efforts by the hierarchy are even less understood. "

Since the fall of the cardinal, anger and indignation have not fallen. Several American bishops have put forward proposals to stem the scourge of sexual abuse while priests try to respond to the misunderstanding of the faithful in their homilies and the media (read below) . An open letter addressed to the Vatican by 44 young Catholics from various backgrounds, often students or teachers of theology, was published Wednesday (August 8th) on the site of First Things , an influential religious magazine. They call for an inquiry to know "who in the hierarchy knew these crimes" and what "answer" gave those "who knew" .

Bob Bonnot, president of the Association of Catholic Priests of the United States (AUSCP), also wants answers. "I'm disappointed by the silence of everyone who knew ," he breathes. There is a great distrust of the hierarchy and, to a certain extent, the priests too. Good Catholics disappear from the churches, scandalized. This case is not going to fix things. " The view is shared by Kurt Martens, a Belgian professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington. "In the United States, diocesan salaries and projects are funded by private donations. All of this is jeopardized today. " It considers the proposals insufficient bishops to restore confidence."On the one hand, there are the faithful who have very strong reactions and do not trust the bishops. On the other hand, there are bishops who say they will act and discuss it at their next Plenary Assembly. It's paternalistic! Are we going to set up a commission of bishops to judge other bishops? He says in reference to a proposal by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, successor of Theodore McCarrick at the head of the diocese of Washington.

Some point to the shortcomings of the "Dallas Charter", a document adopted in 2002 by the American Episcopal Conference to combat sexual abuse of children and young people. Updated in 2018, the text considers abuses committed by priests ... but not by bishops ... "There is great skepticism about how this case will be handled," says father Alek Schrenk. This young priest in Pennsylvania, ordained last year, was in college when the Boston pedophile priest scandal erupted in 2002.   "Sex scandals have become the new norm for young priests," heregrets. But he wants to believe that his generation can change that."Older priests want to act as if nothing had happened, whereas we, the youngest, understand that the Church is in crisis. We are less numerous, but more united. We know that these behaviors are not acceptable. "

Alexis Buisson



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