I'm not really sure why I binged Catholic abuse stories over the holidays. What sort of dark compulsion caused me to immerse myself in The Keepers and Spotlight, both of which had been languishing on my Netflix queue for over a year, I can't say. I hadn't been able to bring myself to watch them, knowing exactly the kind of emotional turmoil would be churned up. But on those cold, December days they called to me, then pulled me in like the undertow of an icy river. It was sickening but necessary viewing. Perhaps it was a need for catharsis at the end of a year that had seen one ugly eruption after another in the priestly abuse saga, events that have seriously tarnished a popular and likable pope. Both the movie and the true crime series are excellent, for what it's worth. The progress of the Catholic Church is not.
I really had hope that Pope Francis would be different than his predecessors. Yet, on this issue, he seems to have even less understanding of the seriousness than Benedict XVI. The past year has been marked by tone-deaf pronouncements, 180° reversals, high profile resignations, and troves of embarrassing documents. It's hard to believe that seventeen years after the Boston Globe's "Spotlight" team exposed the priestly abuse cover-ups and forever changed the world's perceptions of the Catholic Church, new waves of scandal could keep finding the Church so far behind the curve. How have they managed to learn so little from so much? Amazingly 2018 may have eclipsed 2002 as a year of horrible revelation.
A prominent cardinal resigned in disgrace. Grand jurors accused hundreds of Catholic clerics of secretly abusing children. A former Vatican ambassador urged the Pope himself to step down.
It was enough for New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan to call it the Catholic Church's "summer of hell."
The cardinal may have been overly optimistic.
In fact, the church's hellish year began in January, when Pope Francis forcefully defended a Chilean bishop he had promoted. He later had to apologize and accept the bishop's resignation.
But the clergy sex abuse scandal shows no signs of abating, with a federal investigation and probes in 12 states and the District of Columbia in the works.