The interior of a Catholic cathedral where abuse may happen
The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for their groundbreaking 2002 report of Catholic clergy abuse and the cover-up that followed.

Cardinal George Pell's recent appeal of his December conviction for sexual abuse of two minors in an Australian cathedral has reignited outrage and discussions over the Catholic sexual abuse crisis; Discussions which have gone on seemingly endlessly since the Boston Globe's explosive report on abuse in the Catholic Church and the coverup that followed. We've had ULC ministers writing in to share their thoughts on the abuse crisis. Below are two guest sermons from our ministers with different perspectives on the issue.

Nobody Trusts the Catholic Church, and for Good Reason

-a guest sermon submitted by Heather Washington

The bad news about the Catholic Church just keeps coming. There's the blockbuster story involving decades of sexual abuse uncovered by a Pennsylvania grand jury; former archbishop of Washington, D.C, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, was forced to resign; and the Illinois attorney general's office who recently accused that state's Catholic diocese of failing to report at least 500 priests and clergy members accused of sexual misconduct.

Shall I continue?

The Catholic Church meticulously covered up thousands of abuse cases over the last half-century. Pope Francis recently pledged 'zero tolerance' for abuse-- then the church turned around and spent $10 million dollars lobbying against laws that would help abuse victims get justice. The only thing Catholics have zero tolerance for is holding themselves accountable.

How can anyone trust the Catholic Church? They shuffle abusers around from diocese to diocese in an effort to obscure the truth. They fight against legislation that will make them answer for their crimes. And they drag their feet on meaningful reforms.

Pope Francis and the Catholic Church can give all the lip service they'd like. But when it comes time to make restitution, hold abusers responsible, or institute actual change, they always come up woefully short. If you attend Mass, if you tithe, if you still support this organization- you are complicit.

Do Abuse Allegations Undo Centuries of Good Deeds?

-a guest sermon submitted by Frank Ramsey

I won't mince words here. Abuse of children is abhorrent, and those who have been credibly convicted should be, in my opinion, locked away forever. But Catholic priests abuse children at a lower rate than other professions that often work with children, including teachers. The abuse allegations, while disgusting, are sensationalized by a media that loves to hate Catholics.

And in all the overblown media coverage of a few abuse cases carried out by a statistically small percentage of Catholic clergy, aren't we forgetting all of the good deeds Catholics have brought into the world? Keyboard warriors wouldn't have an internet to complain on if not for the Catholic Church and their centuries-long patronage of science and engineering. Nicolaus Copernicus was Catholic. Gregor Mendel. Lamarck. Jean-Baptiste Dumas. And in the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church founded Europe's first universities. The Catholic Church has contributed to the sciences perhaps more than any other organization in history.

The Catholic Church is also the most charitable non-governmental organization on the planet. They spend billions annually on hospitals, universities, and museums. Every day, the Catholic Church serves millions if not billions of poor and needy. The Catholic Church has, undoubtedly, been one of the greatest forces for good this world has ever seen

24/7 news cycles and online echo chambers have blown the so-called abuse crisis out of proportion. Again, Catholic clergy abuse at a lower rate than the average American male. That is not to diminish the heinous crimes of the 4% of priests that have been credibly accused of abuse. Those crimes are evil. But they are not committing abuses at higher rates than anyone else.

Let's not lose the forest for the trees here. We shouldn't judge the Catholic Church for the moral failures of a handful of men. Let's judge based on the countless good deeds done by the church instead.

29 comments

  1. Michael Mangold's Avatar Michael Mangold

    I agree with some if this, especially the CURRENT philanthropy of the RC church. Let's not forget that the "forest" has had thousands, if not millions, of diseased trees throughout the ages. These include popes who held Satanic rituals in St. Peter's, intolerance of opposing views, easily called "heresies" so the heretics could be legally killed, and of course, the Inquisition. The point is well-taken that it has been a small percent if priests, but the bigger issues are the accountability, apathy, cover ups, and interference in secular laws.

    1. David Hayes Tolly's Avatar David Hayes Tolly

      It may be a small percent of priests, but any percent is too much. The problem is that with 400,000 Catholic priests in the world, practically speaking, almost all dioceses have had a problem....some have had huge problems. It's widespread and chronic.....and has personally affected thousands of people. This is not a new idea, but the whole concept of celibate priests fosters the pattern of abuse. Regardless of who, how many, and where, the central problem is the coverup by the church bureaucracy. I understand why, but it is all about self image and protecting the brand. The church has done exactly the opposite.....they have tainted the brand by not owning up to the problem decades ago and they're still fighting the disclosures. The Catholic church needs to get real....get relevant.....or simply shut down.

  1. Dr. Michael Glick's Avatar Dr. Michael Glick

    This somehow reminds me of the Muslims. I have heard the same cry. Do not judge the religion because of the tiny group of fanatics that have acted in the name of Mohammed. Not so. This is not a tiny group. Nor is the Catholic clergy (or at least some of the men AND women who make up the clergy) the entire problem. Those who go to mass or support the church in ANY way are complicit. Please stop and reflect how man twists and turns the Catholic church had to go through for it to travel from the message of LOVE preached by their founder to the Inquisition. And likewise: how many twists and turns the Muslim faith had to go through to reach a point where they can wage total war on "infidels" (read anyone who does not worship as they do). Enough.

    1. JasLor's Avatar JasLor

      You're getting there, at least at the end. Go ahead and trash Catholic clergy, hierarchy, followers, etc. - you won't find me defending any of it, or them. Meanwhile, most of these questions and comments are ignoring the elephant in the room (as ULC incessantly does, the cowards).

      So ... what is a "tiny group of [Muslim] fanatics"? Be specific, please. How many? And what, or who, is this "group"? Actually, it's groups ... plural (see below).

      Sunni and Shia (incl. various offshoots and factions) are mortal enemies. Kind of like Baptists and Methodists.Um ... NOT!!!

      Sorry, I digress ...

      How many followers of Islam would call for my death (beheading I suppose, stoning to death works in a pinch I suppose) for, say, publishing a Muslim equivalent of "Piss Christ" (remember that?), call it "Piss "?

      One? No. Tens? Hardly. Hundreds? Please. Thousands? Uh-uh. Hundreds of thousands? Well, maybe ... maybe!! ... getting close. Or, estimating it as a percentage --> considering (round numbers) there are one billion Muslims, 100,000 is one-hundredth of one percent (.0001!!) who'd rather slit my throat than draw another breadth. Even on-thousandth of one percent gets you 10,000. And I think my estimate may be conservative.

      The number of deaths attributed to protests against “Piss Christ” = 0. Number of deaths attributed to protests against anti-Islam/anti-Mohammed short film “Innocence of Muslims“ = 50 (see Wikipedia, not necessarily authoritative, but certainly left-of-center).

      And the examples and extremist groups go on and on: 9/11(lest we forget? we already have, long ago), Salman Rushdie, Charlie Hebdo massacre, ISIS, IRAN (might qualify as at the top of the list), Saudia Arabia/ Wahhabism, the Taliban ("one U.S. defense official said the current Taliban strength is at least 60,000. Another senior U.S. official said 60,000 "passes the sniff test," while a third official said 60,000 is "a place to start ... An Afghan official told NBC News earlier this month that the Afghan estimate of Taliban strength is also 60,000" - NBC News Jan 30, 2018), Boko Haram, Muslim Brotherhood, Rohingya Muslims, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab, Indonesian Mujahedeen Council, Houthi rebels in Yemen ... are but only a few. And to be fair --> the biggest killers of Muslims on the planet are? ... you got it, other Muslims.)

      The existential threat to the continued existence of humanity in the second decade of the 21st century is NOT pedophile priests, nor the megalomaniac cowboy in the Kremlin, nor the god-in-making in Communist China (move over Mao!), nor the man-child in N. Korea (horrific as he is), nor the despot in Venezuela (despots are with us always like bad weather, sad as that is for our species), nor Donald Trump (as much as I hate him, along with every other politician), nor global warming (oh, sorry, "climate change") - it is the real, and NOT insignificant (in sheer numbers) threat of radical Islamic terrorism.

      I'm sorry, someone wanted to say something about pedophilia?

      I leave with a favorite movie quote of mine (Gotta love Hollywood. Well, sometimes ...), "As a species we're fundamentally insane. Put more than two of us in a room, we pick sides and start dreaming up reasons to kill one another. Why do you think we invented politics and religion?” (Sorry, you'll have to Google the movie and quote for yourselves :))

      I'll go now ...

  1. Tom B's Avatar Tom B

    Respectfully...think about how you would view this article if "Mafia" was substituted for "Catholic Church", and a multiplicity of crimes substituted for sexual abuse...think about it...Peace...Tom B

  1. Tom B's Avatar Tom B

    Joseph...it is uncomfortable to post 2 comments on 2 different subjects in 5 minutes, and have both "awaiting moderation"...Peace...Tom B

  1. Kirk's Avatar Kirk

    Catholics can’t stand child abusers just like everyone else. I noticed the first sermon was written by someone who must get her “facts” from CNN only. If you do a little research, as she clearly did not, you would see that most of the accused priests are either long dead, or long removed from the ministry. The RCC has been working with police for decades now to remove bad priests. When a priest is accused, that individual is placed on a form of administrative leave while internal and external investigations are conducted. Like anybody else accused of a crime, the priest goes through the court system. Like the second sermon mentions this type of abuse happens at a lower rate in the RCC than in other places like public schools. In public schools children of both sexes and of all ages are abused. Even the current Pope says the the abuse cases in the RCC are primarily rooted in homosexuality as 90 some percent of the abused children are male and in a specific age range. This explains the lower rate of occurrence in the RCC compared to public schools. If the first sermon was remotely accurate, then during my years as a student in Catholic schools, I should at very least have heard of, if not known someone who had been abused by one of the priests in that diocese. I did not. I pray for people like the author of the first sermon. I pray she stops hating specially if she wants to be considered as a credible minister. Personally, I think she’s just angry the RCC won’t let her be a priest and is looking for scraps to hate on them for.

  1. ET's Avatar ET

    All sides of this issue make valid points. I believe most can agree it’s morally, socially and legally wrong to molest children regardless of whose doing it. Perhaps if we concentrate on the crimes and the individual perpetrators it can be reduced if not eliminated. Covering up for one who commits the crime is also a crime to be prosecuted individually. Be well.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Welcome to the absurdity of religion. What will it take for people to wake up from their stupid indoctrination?

    ?❤️

  1. Jeff McClain's Avatar Jeff McClain

    If the Church wants to be counted for its good deeds then it should not try to hide the bad deeds and cover them up!!! We all know that men are weak and sinners. But hiding the sins and covering them up are why the Catholic Church is under scrutiny. Police yourselves better and gain the trust of men back.

    1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      “We all know men are weak and sinners”

      No we don’t Jeff. Only those who have been indoctrinated to believe that rubbish.

      ?❤️

  1. Hank Stanco's Avatar Hank Stanco

    The problem the church faces is s an issue which the church doesn’t want to talk about. To question the actual problem lies with a very important dogma to the church. The church can talk about investigations, reports and rules all it wants but until the real problem is faced, nothing will change. The problem the church faces lies with the confessional.

    Just like the laity, priests are required to have a spiritual advisor and in most cases, acts as the confessor.

    Most are aware that breaking the silence of the confessional is sacrosanct and can result in the laicization of the offending priests. Priests have been known to go to prison rather than break the silence of the confessional. This loophole in church dogma allows these monsters to use our own dogma against us.

    Imagine a priest confessing to a bishop that he is a child molester and enjoys the relations with young boys such as the altar boys that serve with him. What is the bishop to do? Should he remain silent? Should he go to the authorities? He can’t if he wishes to keep the sacred duties of his vows.

    This is exactly what occurred with Fr John Geoghan and Cardinal Bernard Law of the Archdiocese of Boston more than forty years ago.

    Not wanting to break his vis, Cardinal Law transferred Geoghan to other parishes and eventually other diocese and likewise, not wanting to break his vows, failed to inform incoming bishops of the problem with Geoghan.

    It was the 70’s and child abuse was just beginning come to the forefront. This was a time that parents still told their sons to keep quiet about the mole station because the priest was a holy man.

    Do we know for sure this occurred? No. Never will. But we Catholics know the system and it’s weaknesses. The issue with Geoghan and Law spread like wildfire. We knew it long before the Boston Globe wrote anything. In fact, we knew it before the writers were even born.

    Today, everyone of importance still refuses to talk of the real problem because it would effect a major Canon Law.

    For those of you who would question my comment here as a defense of the church (Lion), please feel free to google my name.

    It took 36 years but I helped incarcerate my own brother. He finally got caught but not until he had 200 victims. And at great expense. I was disowned when I putted my brother in1975. My mother went to her grave and no one told me. My sister died of cancer and I only learned of her impending death too late to see her. Another brother died and my wife and I drove 1500 miles only to be stopped at the church front door.

    It takes much strength and fortitude to make such accusations public and I would imagine it being that much harder for a priest to consider breaking his vow.

    The church needs to take a serious look at the real problem before any real change can be made.

    1. James's Avatar James

      So I ask is it possible to change the law of the confessional to place the protection of others above the rights of a Haynes perpetrator! Thus giving authority to protect the innocent such as children !!

  1. Kim's Avatar Kim

    Homosexuality and pedophilia is a symptom of this false religion. Even a secular organization of such size would give back in the same manner. That doesn't negate the fundamental evil. And, it isn't just a "few" unsavory individuals. It is extant throughout the organization and has been well documented for hundreds of years.

  1. Frank Villari's Avatar Frank Villari

    So, we have two views, both of which hold some truth. Heather would argue that Catholics, as a whole are complicit simply by being Catholic. Frank would argue that, although abhorrent, good deeds excuse the bad. Both see the evil and both go too far in opposite directions with their arguments. Frank can't excuse the acts of some any more than Heather can condemn everyone for the actions of others. The guilt of the Catholic Church in not taking swift and appropriate action against the monsters in their midst is clear. All parishioners should be outraged. I'm not a big fan of organized religion. I feel all organized religions are guilty of sin. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” -- Psalm 14:1-3

    1. Michael Mangold's Avatar Michael Mangold

      Well said. Very balanced summary and commentary.

  1. Rev CH's Avatar Rev CH

    There are corrupt individuals within any organization. No, the bad things do not negate the good. However, when an organization engages in such a substantial cover-up of such horrendous crimes against children over such a long time, and even the laity compounds the problem through it's collective denial, the good becomes irrelevant to solving the problem. It's also noteworthy that the perpetrators aren't just individuals off the street. They're individuals who have presumably been through some of the most rigorous clerical training programs in existence. They've been mentored and supposedly supervised by others who have been through the training. They've taken vows to uphold a sacred trust, shepherding the flock, being the living embodiment of God's chosen priesthood. The flock has a right to expect better of them and for the church to hold them to a higher standard of accountability than others. Note, I'm not saying judgement, as that's God's place. I'm saying accountability in the sense that these individuals should be held accountable to all laws within and outside of the church, and they should not be enabled by those attempting to protect them.

  1. Boomer's Avatar Boomer

    Until the Catholic Church since the Swiss Guard up to pistol whip these monsters like Ray Liotta out of Goodfellas as a tenderizing step prior to excommunication, then they aren’t doing enough.

  1. EB's Avatar EB

    That second article article asks the wrong question. "Do Abuse Allegations Undo Centuries of Good Deeds?" The question that should be asked is "Do centuries of good deeds justify all the sexual abuse of children?". The answer is clearly "NO". Furthermore, the article claims that Catholic priests abuse kids at a far lower rate than other professions, but how do we know that? There's a good chance that most of the incidents of abuse never get reported to anybody in the first place. Furthermore, just because this abuse was exposed only a few years ago doesn't mean that it has not been going on for centuries, right along side all those "good deeds" the author talks about, and the truth is that NO amount of good deeds can undo centuries of sexual abuse on the part of Catholic clergy, or the life long trauma inflicted on all those poor children. It would be different if those in charge, especially the pope, actually undertook REAL efforts to expose and bring to justice all of these sick child molesters in priestly garb, but instead they cover them up. If anybody is "undoing" the past good deeds of this church, it's the pope and others in charge.

  1. Sharon O'Connor's Avatar Sharon O'Connor

    The Catholic Church lost is moral authority for many of us when they forbid and condemned premarital sex between consenting adults at the same time they were abusing children and covering up for the criminals. The church also made a very profitable business of collecting infants born to unwed mothers, First they stole them, then they sold them. And the society we lived in at the time drank the koolaid; they were brainwashed into believing their daughters were whores when they got pregnant and had to hide them in the facilities the Catholics ran. There were plenty of women who wanted to keep those babies themselves and whose lives had an empty place forever. No consequences for the boys/men who produced these pregnancies, just the girls and women. In those days the role of the fathers was...nothing. They did not have to sign off on the surrender papers. Just get those babies into the adoption mill. The church is one of the richest organization on earth but will not keep parishes open in poor communities, claiming lack of funds. The contradictions and hypocrisy in the church are astounding. They were able to convince generations of good hearted people that the Emperor had new clothes.

  1. andreturenne's Avatar andreturenne

    So long as the patriarchal Catholic church is led by the Pope who dictates the positions on all things social, moral and religious, the whole church needs to be held liable for the abuse of its members. It has been going on for centuries and coming to light in these modern times. Yet not a single Pope has taken responsibility and imposed changes in its administration that would make a difference. At the highest levels, they have moved cardinals, bishops and priests into the Vatican to shield them from legal consequences, just as they have moved pedophile priests from parish to parish. Oh, the current Pope has come out with a few "mea culpas" but has done nothing significant to change the dynamics. My guess is that doing anything drastic would bring the entire pedophile and abuse history right into the Vatican. Hmm, "what would Jesus do?"

  1. oldaabill's Avatar oldaabill

    (NIV) Ezekiel 18:21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. 23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? 24 “But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.

  1. Ladydarksky's Avatar Ladydarksky

    I have two issues sadly to say the catholic church itself doesn't even recognize me as a minister even though i was baptized while a baby as a roman catholic, the archdiocese insists i am invisible, what makes me sad the most is no one is taking responsibility for the abuses that happened. Luke 20:46 goes to say "Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts" i agree with oldaabill and i have tried to teach that lesson time and time again, your deeds are not the only thing that will get you into heaven, but yet the other day saying such i was called by a christian a witch, that i practice witch craft and other worse things i can not even post here. yet the person who said it wants to make pedophilia legal and wants a harem, yet claims to be one of us in the ULC. so its not just the catholic church its almost every religion now has some people like this, we need to be careful more so now than ever that the Devil is out in force! My father was knighted with the Knights of Columbus and has made his fair share of mistakes and i am sure sin, but when it comes to children there needs to be the person taking responsibility to their actions. We can talk about this til we are blue in the face but until something is done it will sadly continue, and as a mother of grown children, i would not bring another child into this world specially now with how much hate and evil there is.

  1. Rod Gesner's Avatar Rod Gesner

    The Point made about Confessional Being a Major part of the problem covered some but not ALL Issues related to that: The Power of the Priest that takes confessions and Grants absolution Gives them an Unholy Hold over those that confess to them.... How will a Child Ever feel Emboldened enough to Confront their Molester; When He is Also Their Confessor? and Knows all their Sins? and What Good can Come from reaching out to a Higher authority When That is Likely the Guilty Priests confessor? The Cycles of Abuse Perpetuate Further Abusers; as They are Raised to Believe that They Deserved it for their Sins or Sinful Thoughts; and if They deserved it then So do Their Victims.. While I understand the Need for Confession/Absolution and the Protections of such; It Has Been Manipulated into The Horrors We are Still learning the Depths of; So it must be Solved/Changed.. as far as "All The Good" the Church has done over the Centuries?? Inquisitions Burnings and other tortures; The Exploitation of Indigenous Peoples world wide; (under the Guise of Bring Gods Word and Salvation They BEAT the Indian out of Small children and Erased their Language and Cultures ETC;) They have Hidden or Claimed and Exploited Centuries of Herbal Medicine Research; Because it was done By Women ( Midwives n Healers: ie.Witches;). The Early Beginnings of the Islamic Problem; Were Likely Fostered By Crusades and Other Rape and Pillage Sorties to "Retake the Holy lands" If We were to Count the Lands Taken; The Lives and Cultures Lost; The Tacit Support of international Criminal organizations; (Donate and Confess; All is Forgiven WINK WINK;) The Catholic Church for All it's Supposed "Good Deeds" The Church's Damages Created an Inferno that Make NAZI Germany Seem like a Brief Flash in the pan.. Sure the Present Islamic Crisis Seems Like The Greatest Threat; But To Them?? What Other religion has as Many Numbers worldwide? Promotes Exploitation of Women as Childbearing Chattels First and people Second???

    AND Yes (Some Apologist is Sure to Exclaim;) There are Many GOOD Catholics... and I Pity them for their Forced Allegiance To The Cult that has Indoctrinated them for Generations... But Like the Threats from ISLAM; We Must Find A Way To Break the Cycle of Justifying EVIL Thru Archaic Fundamentalism... Education is Not Enough, When The Structure of the Church Hides it's Evil; and Prevents Truth from being Told to Those that Need it the MOST!

  1. Glenn's Avatar Glenn

    Child abuse is abhorrent at any level and even more so when the perpetrators use their power -in this case the power of faith and fear - to commit their acts. But what is so disturbing and despicable in this case is the intentional cover-up at ALL levels of leadership in the Church. How are the faithful and devout catholics supposed to process these deeds. As for all the good work that the church has done, Joe Paterno, the coach of Penn State, did great things during his reign as an educator. But in the end, him and his colleagues can never be forgiven for their coverup of a child predator.

  1. Glenn's Avatar Glenn

    What is most alarming to me regarding this heinous scandal, is the incredible lack of leadership displayed by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church all the way up to the infallible Pope. I can only imagine how troubled and confused the devout congregants must feel after their offerings have been spent on the cover-up and this hours of prayer and rosary have been insulted.

  1. Brian Balke's Avatar Brian Balke

    A Cardinal once offered insight on this matter. The Church has its own system of justice, operating under Vulgate Law. The Cardinal admitted that during the era of greatest wrong-doing, the system was not able to manage conduct by those "lying with their whole being."

    This brought me back to a McDonald's playground when I was in second grade. A priest was talking to another man along the lines of "if you get found out, all you have to do is make a strongly worded declaration that the accusations are false." The conduct they were describing - doing favors for the family, not asking for anything immediately - was pedophile grooming strategy.

    Like other organizations in the era, the Church was actively targeted by pedophiles because they were allowed ready access to children. They recruited each other and formed a cabal within the organization. It took a long time to stamp out those at the top of the pyramid.

    It's worth noting that this is not a new struggle. After stepping in to manage the rump of the Roman Empire, the Church shut down secular universities due to complaints of rampant sexual harassment. It's paradoxical that similar conduct is now leading secularists to campaign for elimination of the Church.

    Immoral behavior is typical of any large and powerful institution - you could argue that Congress in its treatment of pages and coddling of Southern racists manifests similar examples. Where do you draw the lines in the campaign of moral purity? Or do we just do away with institutions altogether?

  1. John Joseph Dawber's Avatar John Joseph Dawber

    THE ANCIENT TRADITION OF CELIBACY SHOULD E EXTINGUISHED.-JOHN JOSEPH

  1. Secretary3rd's Avatar Secretary3rd

    Getting the last word in. Nuns are the ones that are in danger since they will do as they are told. When it comes to who gets to abuse who can be an open question. Any choir boys complain when a Nun ask for help to settle her female problems. It seems that Jesus does not give that physical comfort that Nuns need. A choir boy will give that physical comfort.

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