This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.
By some reckonings, the Roman Catholic Church has as many as a billion members.
It’s the largest religious organization in the United States and on earth. So the pedophilia scandal that has now touched the papacy of Benedict XVI has global implications.
The scandal needs some statistical context. A church this large is going to have problems of commensurate magnitude. The sheer size of the Catholic clergy is part of the reason that abuses within its ranks keep hitting the news.
It’s not clear at all that Catholic priests are more prone to pedophilia than other authority figures who work with children – Boy Scout leaders, say, or Protestant clergy. But if even a tiny fraction of Catholic priesthood is abusive, the tiny fraction adds up to a lot of predators and a lot of victims.
It hasn’t helped that the Catholic clergy – probably like the leadership of most organizations – has had a habit of protecting its own. The most outrageous thing about this mega-scandal has been the way some bishops quietly moved priests from one assignment to the next after they were accused of preying on children or other vulnerable parishioners. Read more »