Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - AGENDA - PER­CEP­TIONS

“Any­thing as­so­ci­ated with the arch­bishop makes me un­com­fort­able. Every­thing com­ing out of the Penn­syl­va­nia re­port, it seems pretty damn­ing. I don’t trust him any­more,” he said. “I’m at a loss.”

Fac­ing the lat­est in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Catholics had a range of re­ac­tions — from those who can’t be shocked any­more to those who were newly grieved, from those who feel Catholics are un­fairly sin­gled out to those who main­tain their faith in the re­li­gion but not its lead­ers.

“Ev­ery­body’s al­ways lam­bast­ing the Catholic Church,” com­plained El­iz­a­beth Rhodes, a for­mer Fox News pro­ducer, as she had lunch with her daugh­ter near the cam­pus of Catholic Univer­sity of Amer­ica last week. “They don’t look at peo­ple in sports, the ones who are train­ing kids in soc­cer. There are plenty of other re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties, Jewish and oth­ers, where there’s sex­ual ex­ploita­tion. Any re­li­gion, any time, it’s a tragedy, but I hate this fo­cus [on Catholics].”

Still, Rhodes said, she’s frus­trated with the church’s lead­er­ship. She thinks Pope Fran­cis has been far too slow to re­spond to the cri­sis in Chile. She was up­set by the rev­e­la­tions about McCar­rick. She no longer trusts Wuerl, based on what she’s heard about the Penn­syl­va­nia re­port.

But she re­tains her trust in the priests she knows per­son­ally, and in her re­li­gion. “For me, church is like a hos­pi­tal — you go for help. You go in times that are dif­fi­cult. You need that sup­port, just like you need to work out phys­i­cally.”

Rigo Azanwi, a 26-year-old Ca­puchin friar who is study­ing at Catholic Univer­sity to be­come a priest, said his first re­ac­tion was much the same: sor­row and anger over the chil­dren who were hurt, but also sus­pi­cion that the Penn­syl­va­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice specif­i­cally went af­ter Catholics, even though most of the cases are too old to ever be pros­e­cuted.

“Is this sup­posed to be try­ing to tar­nish the im­age of the church?” he asked last week.

He said he has learned while wear­ing his friar habit just how deeply many peo­ple view the Catholic church with sus­pi­cion af­ter years of scan­dal. He re­mem­bers sit­ting down on an air­plane once, then hear­ing a stranger sneer at him, “Which child have you abused this morn­ing?”

Fear­ful of such per­cep­tions, he is care­ful to never be alone with a child or touch one, even when his nieces and neph­ews ask him for hugs and pig­gy­back rides. “I love kids but at the same time, I am scared of them,” he said.

For young adults like Azanwi, the scan­dals are sim­ply part of what they know of the church that they have grown up with. Alexan­dra DeSanc­tis, a 23-year-old writer who goes to Mass al­most daily, said this sum­mer was the first time the is­sue truly rocked her.

First the al­le­ga­tions against McCar­rick, then the im­mense scale of the Penn­syl­va­nia re­port dis­turbed her deeply — but changed her view of her church’s lead­ers, she said, not her faith. “No one I know will leave the church over this. To me, this isn’t the Catholic Church, these are peo­ple within the church who did evil things,” she said.

She’s pray­ing all the more fer­vently at Mass nowa­days. “You have to pray and ask for the grace to get through some­thing as dif­fi­cult as this.”

This ar­ti­cle was pub­lished first in the ‘Wash­ing­ton Post’

In the days since a Penn­syl­va­nia grand jury re­ported on child sex abuse by Catholic priests, Car­di­nal Don­ald Wuerl’s rep­u­ta­tion has taken a bru­tal hit.

Wuerl’s up­com­ing book has been can­celled by the pub­lisher, he abruptly pulled out of his role as key­note speaker at this week’s World Meet­ing of Fam­i­lies, and of­fi­cials are con­sid­er­ing tak­ing his name off a high school in his home­town of Pitts­burgh, where Wuerl served as bishop for 18 years be­fore be­com­ing the arch­bishop of Wash­ing­ton in 2006.

On Mon­day, a van­dal got ahead of them — cov­er­ing his name in red spray paint.

Wuerl, an out­wardly mild priest and metic­u­lous man­ager who picks ev­ery word care­fully when he speaks, has be­come for the mo­ment the face of a bal­loon­ing cri­sis in the Catholic Church. And un­like the quiet protests and long­ings for change of past decades, Catholics in 2018 are de­mand­ing ac­count­abil­ity — and fast.

“Par­tic­u­larly among peo­ple who have stuck with the church this long, who have been through it all, they are say­ing: ‘God, we can­not go through this again’,” said John Allen, who has writ­ten mul­ti­ple books on the Vat­i­can and the US church, and now runs the Catholic web­site Crux. “And my read is that this crowd is not go­ing to be sat­is­fied with as­sur­ances. They want to see some­thing real.”

For the past 18 months or so, Allen said, mount­ing scru­tiny of the role of two car­di­nals in al­legedly cov­er­ing up clergy sex abuse in Chile has trained Catholic at­ten­tion on the church hi­er­ar­chy. “And now it’s sym­bol­ised by the case of Don­ald Wuerl.”

By “it,” Allen is not re­fer­ring to the abuse by priests, who in the vast ma­jor­ity of cases were ul­ti­mately re­moved from church life for al­leged abuse decades ago. He is ref­er­enc­ing cover-ups by their lead­ers — bish­ops and car­di­nals who have not been held ac­count­able for mov­ing abusers around and con­tin­u­ing to pro­tect and pay them, favour­ing pro­tec­tion of the in­sti­tu­tional church over dev­as­tated vic­tims.

The 900-page re­port men­tions Wuerl more than 200 times and chal­lenges the im­age Wuerl has tried to project of a leader who al­ways stood with vic­tims.

It says that in some in­stances he went well be­yond the norm in try­ing to push out preda­tors, per­haps most no­tably when he went all the way to the Vat­i­can to fight an or­der that he re­in­state a priest named An­thony Cipolla — and won.

But in other cases, the re­port al­leges that Wuerl cod­dled flagged priests — in one case per­mit­ting an ac­cused abuser to re­main in min­istry and in an­other pre­sid­ing over a set­tle­ment agree­ment that banned the vic­tims from speak­ing. It cites the case of Wil­liam O’Mal­ley, who Wuerl gave a church job and loaned money even though the priest had sex­ual trou­ble in his past. Vic­tims later came for­ward al­leg­ing abuse in the years af­ter Wuerl had re­turned O’Mal­ley to min­istry, the re­port al­leged.

On Mon­day, Wuerl’s spokesman, Ed McFad­den, and his at­tor­ney, Mickey

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