Red Flags, Abuse, and the Final Judgment

Christ tells us to recognize the false prophets, the ones who are secretly ravenous wolves longing to eat His people up, by the fruit they bear. The laity (and some clergy) have demanded answers about the predations of Archbishop McCarrick and the bishops who enabled his abuse. We’re still waiting for many of them, including the disclosure of Vatican documents that could directly confirm or debunk Archbishop Viganò’s testimony.

But we’re starting to get an answer to one of our questions: How could you? And the bleak answer is coming from Catholic writers who mean to speak up in defense of Pope Francis and others.

Austen Ivereigh, a Catholic journalist and biographer of Pope Francis, characterized McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians as “sex with adults decades earlier.” In a news analysis for Crux, John L. Allen Jr. argued it would be misleading to talk about McCarrick’s behavior as sexual abuse or to say his enablers participated in a cover-up of abuse. Allen says that the open secret about McCarrick only concerned “sexual misconduct with young adult seminarians,” and that, “while indefensible, such behavior does not constitute a crime under either civil or Church law.”

What McCarrick is credibly accused of is not simply a failure of chastity, in which he betrayed his promise to the church by seeking out sexual partners. He is accused of preying on seminarians, deliberately using his power over them to pressure them into silence as he sexually harassed and assaulted them. Such behavior would be sinful for any boss targeting his underlings, but for McCarrick to target seminarians adds the tang of blasphemy. The men he preyed on had entered seminary to make an offering of themselves to the Church. When he attacked them, it was as if he had attacked the gifts being brought to the altar for consecration.

The abuses he has been accused of should have prompted intervention long before evidence of child abuse surfaced. But abusers profit from our disregard of Christ’s warning that “he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much” (Luke 16:10). The Church isn’t the only institution to neglect this duty. There’s no reason to wait for criminal liability—for the sake of both victims and abusers, intervention should come before a crisis reaches that point.

Read more at Catholic World Report