American Catholic Exceptionalism

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“Will it never end?” Michael Sean Winters asked last week in contemplating the indictment handed up by a Philadelphia grand jury for sexual abuse against three priests, a lay teacher, and–most importantly–the high archdiocesan official who managed the cover-up. The answer I’d give is no, not as long as the Catholic church in America is what it is.

You can say that Philly was one of the toughest nuts for critics to crack. You can hope, for his sake, that Tim Dolan of New York didn’t squirrel away tens of millions of dollars to avoid settling abuse suits when he ran the show in Milwaukee. You can enjoy the irony of outgoing Roger Mahony of L.A., he of many sins, summarily dismissing his Vicar for Clergy for assigning a parish to a priest who had abused a teenage girl in the 1960s.

Then consider the latest news from Ireland:

The Pope will be officially told the Irish Catholic Church is “on the
edge” of national collapse and has only five to 10 years to make a
radical recovery by giving laymen and women a greater say in

That’s according to Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who’s got the job of reporting to the Vatican on the state of the Irish church. But if O’Malley tried to deliver the same message regarding the American church, his fellow bishops would laugh him out of town. In Ireland, they understand that clericalism is the problem. Here, they think it’s the solution.

  • Jack B

    Archbishop Dolan preempted questions immediately on his election to lead the USCCB: “My major priority would be to continue with all vigor I can muster what’s already in place,” Archbishop Dolan said. “It’s not like we’re in crisis; it’s not like all of a sudden we need some daring new initiatives. Thank God for the leadership of Cardinal Francis George, things are going well.”
    Within a week, he had noted a “sobering study” showing that one-third of Americans born and baptized Catholic have left the church and concerns about rates of Catholic marriage and Mass attendance. .
    An optimist might interpret Dolan’s first week in the USCCB position as showing signs of insightful progress with, perhaps, more to come.