Pope Francis, scandals, and clericalism

There have already been a number of threads relating to the Pope’s visit to the USA and comments that were prompted by the visit (sometimes negative, e.g. “Angry conservatives insist Pope Francis is a fake Christian”). But I thought I should put this in a new thread since it doesn’t really fit into any of the others.

The other day I saw a discussion on the news (CNN, I think) about clerical sex abuse scandals, and in particular about Americans who believe that the Pope has not done enough.

I don’t want to recreate the whole conversation, but I’d like to post what struck me most about it: I think that so many people say the Pope hasn’t done enough on this issue because their vision is too narrow. That is to say, if you only ask “What actions by Pope Francis have been specifically directed to dealing with sexual abuse by priests?” then you may well be disappointed with the answer. But you would be ignoring ways in which the Pope has dealt with the roots of the problem, such as clericalism.

That’s probably a good way to look at it.


The connections between clericalism and the sex abuse scandals comes up every so often … followed by a lengthy dormition.

One of the better known articles seems to be Clericalism and the Sex Abuse Scandal. (I’m not very familiar with that author, but I read that article after I saw praise for it from Fr. Neuhaus – which is, of course, not to say that Fr. Neuhaus agrees with every word said there. Nor do I, incidentally … not that my opinion counts like his does. :))

An alternate take on the matter can be found here, Solving the Clerical Sex-Abuse Crisis.


The connection between clericalism and the sex abuse scandals comes up every so often … followed by a lengthy dormition.

One of the better known articles seems to be Clericalism and the Sex Abuse Scandal. (I’m not very familiar with that author, but I read that article after I saw praise for it from Fr. Neuhaus – which is, of course, not to say that Fr. Neuhaus agrees with every word said there. Nor do I, incidentally … not that my opinion counts like his does. :))

An alternate take on the matter can be found here, Solving the Clerical Sex-Abuse Crisis.

As someone who is paying very close attention to the CC at the moment, the biggest issue I have is not with the Pope’s actions, but some of the bishops. I legitimately don’t understand how Cardinal Dolan allowed Mo Rocca to do the first reading of the Papal Mass, also him taking place in an LGBT parade on St. Pats, Archbishop Chaput allowing Michael Nutter to speak at independence hall before the Pope, etc…All of this leading up to the Synod, where many bishops are openly against the traditional social teachings of the Church. As a non-Catholic, I am attracted to the CC when it stands up for its traditional teachings, not when it backs down to modern culture.

P.S. This comment is not meant to unfairly criticize clerics of the CC, but mention legitimate grievance I have.

Was that really Mo Rocca?

I’m light on knowing the famous few, but I thought I recognized him and showed a video to my wife. She thought it looked like him, but did not think it was possible for the Church to put him in front of the Pope.

I didn’t follow up and search to see if it really was him.

Take care,


Hi Aslan10. Two things …

First, let me reference something I said last week, for anyone who missed it (people didn’t respond to it, which makes it difficult to know how many people read it):

Needless to say, I’m sympathetic to your concerns. At the same time, though, have you considered that you’re perhaps being a little extreme about them?

Yes, it was.


Hi Peter J,

I am being too extreme? Possibly. But I don’t think asking the Cardinal, for instance, who is aware of the issues in America right now, to not do something perceived as endorsing a lifestyle counter to Church teaching is extreme; I think that is a basic request.


On the face, it seems scandalous or contradictory.

I understand the frustration. We are taught to not be scandalous, rather exude truth in honesty. (screen name irony noticed)

But then I have to ask myself, when I’ve read at Mass, was I a sinner?


So since my sins are not public and he chooses to make one of his known, is there a reason he should not have been chosen?

Tough to say.

Since everyone sins, rather than considering one’s sinfulness to be used against them in potential participation, if I’m logistics coordinator of a Papal Mass, I want to ensure the focus is on the Mass and the Pope.

The odd part here is that the Mass is the greatest prayer, but a Papal Mass is the greatest spectacle.

The media will run with the story – ‘Church getting LGBT friendly!’.

There are some things in this world that if explained perfectly, would still be driven in an unintended direction.

The reality is, it was the first reading in a Mass.

At 100 weddings around the world on a Saturday, the probability of a non-practicing or even non-Catholic participating in some way including possibly reading, is high.

Take care,


A good point. Thank you, for that perspective.

However, what of my first post? Bishops/Priests openly opposing church teaching, then performing (and taking) the mass without reprimand? Again, as an outsider it’s confusing, and I have seen the splintering of my two previous traditions (Presbyterian and Anglican) because of a lack of backbone.

I re-read your first.

I’ll build a reply.

I have a personal experience that I think we can pull in, but time isn’t going to allow for a good post today.

PM me if I don’t get to it by this time tomorrow.

Thank you,


Thanks, I look forward to reading it.

You may not, kind of long, but here is what I put together:

One of the greatest difficulties we have today with this splintered Christianity is let’s say a ‘people left behind problem’.

So when a small number of people decide they want to split and start a new (or confuse with seemingly variant teaching), we might chalk that up as another denomination (one more) or Church teaching (potential confusion).

How many lives do splits or confusion touch up? It is probably fair to say many more than the decision makers or leadership. Over time and multiple splits (teaching variants) hearts get hard, people get sad / frustrated due to the experience.

Does this happen in the CC? Sure. The people can absolutely experience similar effects of variance in teaching. (see ex-Catholics / reverts)

Though I never left the Church, I left a sacrament behind for a while because of a clergy member teaching an incorrect view of sin: (which by default would have rendered any Eucharist’s I received when not in the state of grace as even greater sin, Lord have mercy)

20+ years ago, I went to confession, confessed a sin, was told as it was habitual, it was not a sin.

I knew this is wrong at the time as sin is sin, and sins of this particular nature are always grave, there is no scope, like in stealing where a penny is not $1million. I felt very awkward and uneasy when leaving the confessional (this is not a typical feeling when cleaning your soul).

(side story) I watched that confessional like a hawk, all the way through Mass. I wanted to put a face on the priest who told me this lie. No priest ever came out.

After that confession, I didn’t go to confession for years. (What was the point if I was going to be told to keep on sinning?)

Now every once in a while when I am in confession I confirm with the priest the truth on this type of sin, that it is always grave and there is no scope with it. Multiple priests have acknowledged that priest gave very bad and incorrect advice.

So here is the key – If you, an outsider, are noticing clergy opposing Church teaching publicly, that means your reason glasses are clean and clear (probably more clean than many Catholics), because what is most common from ‘an outsider’ perspective? Perhaps more along the lines of ‘This priest said xxxxxx, thus that’s what the church teaches!’.

If it smells funny, it might be funny. But like with the Mo Rocca situation, it’s good to step back and see –

Is this decision wrong (vs Church teaching), if so – point for me! I’m not letting him confuse me, moving on!

Maybe it’s just odd and/or scandalous, but not wrong or contra. (debate on scandalous = wrong set aside for now)

Or - am I not seeing something. I think I’ll go post the full context of what I see at Catholic.com and see what folks say, maybe give a phone call to the local Church and drop the question on them as well.

But most definitely will double down on reading the Bible, the Catechism and fill in with lives of the Saints, to keep my mind clear and happy.

The nice thing is that even with confusion entering the arena, there is but one easy way to reset one’s foundation. Go to the creed, read it slowly and confirm your heart is aligned.

Take care,


You had me at possibly.


But seriously, I can’t really say whether or not you’re too extreme. And, truth be told, I too would like Cardinal Dolan to explain his actions – especially I’d like him to explain to a Catholic teenager who was kicked out of the house for being gay.

This was a poor attempt at sarcasm which never comes across well. I’m sorry.

Realized I just barely brushed by ‘without reprimand’ - here I want to key in on:

‘Bishops/Priests openly opposing church teaching, without reprimand?’

I’m just going to throw out a couple angles.

When we sin and go to confession, 99.9% of the time our penance is some form of prayer.

It seems extremely light for the sins that we do against God and our fellow person(s).

A couple of pennies worth of potential ‘why’ and hopefully tying back into the above.

The Church is not a government, so we have to consider the reprimand might be outside of our box that we might relate to some form of punishment.

If the Church did do some form of publicized punishment, what would the effect be?

We think we would be like - good, that guy got put in his place! However -

I could see a populous saying something like - ‘look at what that Church does to it’s sinners! Surely we don’t want to be a part of that Church!’

Coming from an angle that the CC assumes itself to be the full truth in love to guide folks in this crazy thing we call life, that would not be helpful.

Responsibility - The Church needs to make sure the all the people constantly have the ability to be responsible. Including the clergy. From a ‘God loves, love cannot force a response’ angle, the Church knows it cannot force anyone to love back (freely abide).

Any form of traditional punishment doesn’t change the hard heart.

If a shepherd is leading the flock astray, that’s a shepherd that needs to pray and needs prayers.

I hope that covers what I missed a little.

Take care,


When oh when will you learn that internet forums are the black-hole-of-humor?

:wag finger in slightly condescending fashion:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.