The Catholic Church is facing its most serious crisis in 500 years. In these last few months, a new wave of clerical sexual abuse revelations left the world in shock. From Australia to Chile to Germany to the United States, horrifying reports revealed thousands of cases of child molestation by members of the clergy. One U.S. grand jury report documented 1,000 children abused by 300 priests in the state of Pennsylvania alone over seven decades.
The new wave of revelations in 2018 was disturbing not only because it exposed the persistence of abuse but also because it implicated high level church officials in the abuse and its cover-up. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, resigned from the College of Cardinals in July when credible accusations came to light that he had sexually abused a minor and harassed seminarians he supervised. The McCarrick revelations were particularly troubling because the former archbishop had played a leadership role in the Catholic Church’s response to the last U.S. clerical sexual abuse scandal in 2002. In late August, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal diplomat, published a letter accusing Pope Francis of knowing about McCarrick’s sexual abuses for years and helping to cover
All rights reserved. To request permission to distribute or reprint this article, please visit ForeignAffairs.com/Permissions.