McCarrick Report Sick Church
The Vatican’s report on defrocked Cardinal Theodore McCarrick revealed sexual abuse of adults and minors by a Catholic cleric and its cover-up by church officials — more of the same pattern we’ve seen so often in the church, reaching to the highest levels.
How should church leadership respond? It’s easy to see this as a lack of effective rules to root out bad actors. I want to suggest that instead of a legal or juridical approach to this ongoing problem, we instead take a medical metaphor for our lead. What’s going on in the organism of the church?
Diagnosis starts with a thorough exam. Here our symptoms start with sexual abuse of boys and men, à la McCarrick.
But it’s not just sex: Bishop Michael Bransfield lived a lavish, jet-setting lifestyle while shepherding — fleecing — his Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. He also showered cash gifts on other church leaders, including thousands to adults he allegedly harassed. As Fr. Peter Daly commented, bishops are the “spiritual heirs of the Borgias and the Medici.”
Diagnosis is discerning in the pattern of symptoms a root cause or causes that, if addressed, will alleviate the symptoms. If the symptoms are treated but not the disease, these symptoms will come back, and like imperfectly exorcised demons, will bring seven times more problems with them. There may be other problems — comorbidities — that need treatment as well; ignoring them means the patient will still suffer.