WHY did the Church protect its erring sheperds in the first place?


Can somebody explain to me. In my head, it would have been so simple to just punish the erring priests and bishops when they were first reported. Excommunicate them. Charge them with abuse. Why did the cover ups happen? What was the Church trying to protect? Its image? Its moral ascendancy…?


There are a couple of things. I’m not saying I agree with this or support it. I’m just telling you what I believe.

First, there is a tradition that the clergy in the performance of their duties are under Canon law, not secular law. Personally, I think they should be under both. If they have broken a Canon law, deal with that part of it in the Church. If they have broken a secular law, and it is a just law, they could also be accountable to that.

Second, there is a huge financial issue, both income and expense. These scandals reduce tithing and cost the Church on the front end. Covering up and obfuscating creates doubt in the minds of the faithful as to culpability up to a point. Also, the Church has deep pockets and could easily be sued out of existence. Keep in mind that when a diocese gets sued for what its leaders have done it is not their money that gets awarded in damages. It is the Church’s money, money that goes to run the services provided to the people of the Church. Many of those services are very laudable and might end as a result.

Third, I don’t think we will every know how deep this went and is still going. The recent accusations raise the idea that the people who made the decisions not to do what you suggest might have been some of the guilty.

Fourth, I don’t think even the honest leaders of the Church really know what to do. It is not what they are trained for. I’m not sure what you suggest would actually solve the problem. We need prevention more than we need retribution or even justice. I think the solutions are there, but they are not being fully implemented.

Just MHO. Again, I am not saying the above is justified in any way. These scandals are horrible and I am as sick for the victims as anyone.


This priest seems to have an explanation for this.


Great question. WEll:

For one, bad press. Other organizations such as schools weren’t lining up to blare out their scandals either…the ones who do it now do it because they have no choice or are smart enough to cut their losses.

For two, it just wasn’t done for much of the time that these abuses have been revealed to have occurred. There was a long-standing notion in medicine/psychiatry that pedophilia, like the common cold, could be “cured” if you just had the right combination of drugs and medicine. Many, many agencies and organizations at the time were advised by the experts to distance themselves from any taint of “sexual vice”, which would be disastrous for them. And their consciences were soothed with the “we can fix this” attitude.

For three, human error when it comes to those we love or have affection for. These men were all in the same profession and lived and worked and recreated together. They liked each other. They didn’t want to believe the accusations, hurt their friends, expose their organization to criticism/mass exodus/etc or have to live with the discomfort of spending their days with someone they had accused of such a terrible crime.

For four, even NORMAL sex was a “no-no” topic in polite company for a very long time. Deviant sex was never mentioned. It was simply no talked about and you would be shut down and cut out if you mentioned it, much less repeated it and insisted on an “open discussion” of it. Even proven victims of abuse were NOT encouraged to go to the police. They were encouraged to bury it, not talk about it, make as if it never happened. Nobody wanted to hear it. The whole topic was taboo. We still see this in how hard it can be for the victims of abuse to stand up and declare their abuse and ask for or demand resolution in an era of apparent “total transparency”.

For five, many would probably have felt like THEIR jobs were on the line for not being able to keep their “employees” in line. Very much the expectation of leadership is that they will keep their employees in line and if they can’t do that, they can’t do their job. No one is keen to be publicly demoted and humiliated.

For six, some of them, I’m sure, were just jerks and saw in it a “you wash my hands and I’ll wash yours” opportunity or were involved in it themselves and didn’t want anyone looking to closely at them or limiting their own “activities”. Sad but true.

The bottom line, and ultimate answer to your question is: because they are human. It’s not always so easy when it’s right here, right now and right in your face. Once you’ve done it once, it’s going to snowball; you’re open to blackmail and extortion.

I’m not saying we don’t hold them accountable or that there is no sin in it or that they didn’t sin or err or whatever. But God calls us to the incredibly difficult work of loving ALL, not just the holy and “good” people who do the right thing. And, if you ever find yourself in the position of having done something you’d never have believed you could do, you’ll be grateful for that commandment.

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