A Jesuit priest told Bold TV that in the wake of a “Catholic #MeToo,” the Catholic Church can’t put possible financial exposure as a top worry in the wake of new controversies around alleged sexual abuse by priests.
“There’s going to be a tremendous amount of financial exposure for the Church, and that cannot be our priority, ever,” said Fr. Sam Sawyer, executive editor of America Magazine and a Jesuit priest, who visited Bold TV after the New York attorney general’s office issued subpoenas to every Catholic diocese in the state and a new grand jury report alleged that Catholic priests abused more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania.
“I think that there are going to be real changes,” Sawyer told Bold TV. “The Church betrayed people it was supposed to protect and failed people for years and decades.”
Sawyer said the majority of cases in the Pennsylvania grand jury report were before 2002, suggesting that policies implemented since then have largely worked–a “silver lining” he said, if there was one to be had.
With regard to accountability, Sawyer said “it’s going to be slower than we want it to happen, but it’s going to happen …there’s also a need for reform with how we deal with bishops.”
Sawyer said a $2 million report commissioned by the Catholic Church conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that celibacy of priests “doesn’t seem that it was a contributing cause” leading to child abuse. Rather he said a contributing factor appears to be the hierarchical structure of the Catholic Church, which has allowed perpetrators to be shielded via bureaucracy.
Pope Francis has faced criticism from Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who alleges that the pope empowered that bureaucracy by shielding former cardinal Theodore McCarrick from accountability. McCarrick recently resigned his position after facing accusations of improper sexual behavior.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large for National Review, said she was one of 40,000 women who signed a letter in the Catholic Women’s Forum, Letter to Pope Francis from Catholic Women,” urging the pope to answer questions around Viganò’s accusations.
“We need help here,” Lopez said. “We need to be completely transparent and welcome it.”
Lopez agreed with Sawyer that the Catholic Church should not fear offering some type of financial compensation for victims.
“Real estate can not be our priority,” Lopez said.
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Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.