After a Pennsylvania grand jury exposed a massive coverup of child sexual abuse by leaders of the Catholic church, in which 1,000 children were abused by more than 300 priests, many parishioners are yet again having a crisis of faith. As the Washington Post reports, the Catholic church “has lost more members in recent decades than any other major faith.” In citing a 2015 poll from the Pew research center, 27 percent of people who once considered themselves Catholic do not identify as such now — and they cite the numerous clergy sexual abuse scandals as their main reason for leaving the church.
The case in Pennsylvania is not the only one to shake the foundation of the Catholic church this year. In Chile, the church’s Episcopal conference has been raided as authorities delve into claims of sexual abuse committed by the order of the Marist Brothers, according to The Guardian. Cardinal George Pell, at one time Pope Francis’ finance chief, is the “highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged with sexual abuse,” according to the New York Times. More recently, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned after years of sexual abuse allegations, as Vox reports.
“This has been the summer from hell for the Catholic Church and our sins are blatantly exposed for the world to see,” Vatican adviser Rev. Thomas Rosica noted.
Despite the numerous scandals that have plagued the church before — in 2002, the Boston Globe released a scathing expose uncovering child sexual abuse — the latest string of scandals seems to be solidifying people’s mistrust of the institution.
Paul Elie, a writer and lecturer at Georgetown University’s Berkley Center, said that though he was deeply disappointed in the Catholic church after the incident in 2002, the happenings this summer have left him feeling deeply disturbed.
“It affects me profoundly. A lot of Catholics, we have to ask whether we have wasted our lives following this model of leadership. At this point, the leadership in this country is not credible,” he said. Elie added that the consistent scandals that come from the church make it hard for him to want to pass along his Catholic faith to his children. “I think about it every hour.”
Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, also feels the recent scandals have caused more people to leave the church.
“It’s almost unsalvageable. The church is in pieces. People have completely separated their faith from the organization,” she said. She says that people are now coming to the realization that the church is a “fallible” institution because, with every allegation and resignation, people become more and more cynical.