A growing Catholic rift


MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 4th of December, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. The Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal continues to roil the church and everyone involved. American bishops appeared ready last month to adopt new policies to prevent future abuse.

But the Vatican ordered them not to take any action. That only added to accusations that church leaders are using delay tactics.

REICHARD: Yes, and it has deepened the growing rift between American Catholics and the Vatican.

Kiley Crossland writes on marriage and sexuality for WORLD Digital. She covered this story and is here to talk more about it.

Kiley, what happened in November to spark this latest controversy?

KILEY CROSSLAND, REPORTER: The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops was set to vote on two measures in November’s annual assembly in Baltimore. Both measures would have brought more accountability to the church regarding clergy sex abuse.   

But on Day 1 of that meeting, conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo made an announcement. He told the bishops the Vatican ordered the vote suspended. The bishops still talked about the measures, but they didn’t do anything about them.

REICHARD: Well, remind us of the background for this vote.

CROSSLAND: The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by accusations of abuse and cover-up. Just this past July, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned. Allegations had come in that he groped a teenage boy in the 1970s. The Pope accepted his resignation and then several others came forward with similar allegations.

A month later, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a devastating report. It found sexual abuse in six of the seven state diocese—300 predator priests who raped and molested more than 1,000 children over 70 years.

And for the first time, the U.S. Department of Justice opened an investigation into child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania.

REICHARD: Did that conference president—Cardinal DiNardo—say why the vote was delayed?

CROSSLAND: He said the Vatican wanted to delay any vote until after a global summit on sexual abuse set for February. It’ll include the presidents of all the bishops’ conferences in the world. It’s an effort to keep the United States’ Catholic church from taking action until after that meeting.

REICHARD: What was the bishops’ reaction?

CROSSLAND: Mostly condemnation and frustration. Bishops at that November meeting said their congregants are crying out for action on the crisis.

REICHARD: What was the wider Catholic Church’s reaction?

CROSSLAND: Well, some Vatican supporters argued the delay might prevent some mistake of Canon Law. But a lot of Catholic critics just see more cover-up by those with power in the church. They see a quest for control because the pope’s close associates are involved in the wider sexual abuse scandal.

Others point to a divide between the United States and the Vatican, especially among the more conservative bishops. These observers call on Catholic leaders in the United States to demand action from the pope.

I’ve read commentaries that show American Catholics are fed up with no action on the sexual abuse crisis. Though the church has nearly 70 million members, the majority only attend church a few times a year, and so commentators say more inaction could trigger a mass exodus of wavering Catholics.

REICHARD: Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD Digital and is based in Denver. Thank you, Kiley.

CROSSLAND: You’re welcome, Mary.


(Photo/Patrick Semansky, Associated Press) A protester outside the U.S. Conference of Bishops meeting Nov. 13 in Baltimore. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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