RUFFOLO: Catholic Church must take more deliberate action, responsibility

The+Catholic+Church+must+meet+moral+and+just+standards.+Photo+via+Flickr

The Catholic Church must meet moral and just standards. Photo via Flickr

The Catholic Church must assume more responsibility for the sex abuse crisis and hold abusers accountable for their actions.

As a Catholic Jesuit university, the sex abuse crisis poses relevance to Marquette. In 2018, Rev. Robert A.Wild admitted to knowing about clergy abuse allegations, prompting his request to be removed from the university’s new residence hall, which is now referred to as The Commons.

A report from the Vatican Nov. 10 revealed Pope John Paul II was aware of sexual misconduct allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who sexually abused minors and adults during the 1980s and 1990s, but chose to promote him as cardinal anyway.

Unfortunately, this is not new. Catholic officials have been found to have known about the horrific acts of abuse committed by priests and bishops, such as Cardinal McCarrick, for years, yet chose to either promote them to a higher position or shuffle them to a new parish, such as the case of John Geoghan, who was assigned to several parish posts even after knowledge of his pedophilia.

The accusations of cases started to build up in the late 1980s, when it was discovered that the Catholic Church was covering up a horrifically large scandal — one that preyed on innocent children. 

In 2002, The Boston Globe discovered that the abuse was not an isolated incident nor one that was only a national problem, but one that spanned worldwide. Instead of taking action, the Catholic Church covered it up. It was apparent that this elaborate system of torture was hidden in the Church’s authoritarian structure, and the complicity went all the way to Rome.

It is no surprise that people are doubting the Church’s and the Pope’s supposed infallibility. Some have even questioned if John Paul II was too quick to be canonized as a saint.

It is hard to present yourself as the structure of morality and goodness  when you have a church that has been so polluted by sheer evilness. It is hypocritical to preach a message of love, good faith and responsibility when the institution you uphold is filled with liars and pedophiles, and perhaps even worse — people who fail to take any action against them.

The Vatican’s claim that the late Pope John Paul knew about Cardinal McCarrick’s allegations is said to be a damning development for the Church. In some ways, it should be. It is long past due for the Church to assume responsibility, to hold figures accountable, to accept blame and to admit to the dark force that has loomed over the Church for decades. 

It is also time for action. The Church claims to promote “zero tolerance,” but it must treat all allegations with profound seriousness. 

The Catholic Church must stop lobbying against acts that are meant to help abused children, such as spending millions of dollars to fight legislation such as the Child Victims Act, which gives survivors more time to seek justice against their abusers.

Covering up scandals and seeking to sweep instances of abuse under the rug has failed the Church, as the public always ends up finding out anyway, disgusted not only by despicable actions but by the nonexistent efforts to stop it. 

Catholics are leaving the Church because of it. In 2019, a Gallup Poll showed that 37% of Catholics questioned their faith after recent news concerning sexual abuse.

Victims have had their faith torn from them, their belief in God and spirituality forever tainted by the crimes of those who revered and protected. People simply do not trust the Church anymore, because it has not given them a reason to do so.

It is time for the Church to realize that the only godly, moral thing to do is to accept blame, to acknowledge their wrongdoings and sins and aim to do better.

The Church is supposed to be the Church of God, a place of pure holiness, in which people are attracted by its mystique, its beauty and its love for Jesus and God. 

Transparency and accountability is the only way to mend the wounds of the Church, to show its commitment to morality, to God and to be looked upon with any sort of favorability.

If the Church wants to hold its moral authority, it must purge evil from within and from there it may continue to live up to the godly standard it promotes.

This story was written by Lucia Ruffolo. She can be reached at lucia.ruffolo@marquette.edu.