Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Sexual Abuse Crisis

Many Catholics are reeling after the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed the abuse of nearly 1,000 victims by hundreds of priests over the course of decades. This, coming on the heels of another scandal involving former-cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s abuse of minors and seminarians, has Catholic feeling like they are in the middle of another sexual abuse crisis, and it leaves them with a lot of questions.

Below are some frequently asked questions regarding the current events, including how the bishops are responding and practical ways that the laity can respond to the abuse crisis.

What was in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report?
The report released on August 14 details allegations made in the dioceses of Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Scranton. At nearly 900 pages, the report identifies more than 300 priests who are credibly accused of sexually abusing nearly 1,000 victims, many of whom were children. The details of the report are graphic and devastating, and paint a portrait of Church leaders who minimized, covered-up, or simply did nothing when faced with the abuse of parishioners. You can read the full report here.

These events happened decades ago, why is it being brought up now?
In responding to a listener’s question on The Patrick Madrid Show, host Patrick Madrid said, “We bring it up because it is a real problem in the Church, and Pennsylvania is just one area. There are 50 states in the country, and this is a problem all over the country. We’re just getting a glimpse.”

It’s as if somebody pulled the rock up and we’re looking at all the things scurrying around that used to be in the dark. It’s important people understand this, first so that justice and restitution can be made. But also, and perhaps more importantly, so that we can finally stop this problem so that it doesn’t happen again and so that future boys, girls, teenagers, and adults don’t get victimized. It’s necessary to drag all this out and deal with it, disinfect it, solve the problem, cut out the gangrene before it spreads any further.”

You can listen to The Patrick Madrid Show entirely dedicated to the Pennsylvania grand jury report here.

Sexual abuse happens in other places in society too, why is the Church being targeted?
In a statement released on August 15, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York wrote, “While it is true that the abuse of minors was badly handled by all segments of society, if there is one segment that should have done a better job, it is the Church. And while the Church in the past may have been an example of what not to do, today I believe it is a model of what to do to prevent sexual abuse, and how to respond when an accusation comes to light.

Although the situation in the Church is very different today, especially since the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, that does not mean that we can become complacent or think this is all behind us. We must continue to do all that we can to address the pain and suffering that victim-survivors continue to feel.”

How are the bishops responding?
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a statement after a series of meeting with his fellow bishops. In the statement he wrote:

“I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.

We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust.”

In an effort to make practical steps to move forward, Cardinal DiNardo also outlined the practical changes that will take place in an effort to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past. You can read the details of those changes here.

What can the laity do to confront the evil present within our Church?
In the midst of successive scandals, many Catholics feel their faith being tested. The betrayal and harm caused by these abusive priests can be difficult to work through. But as Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ, host of St. Joseph’s Workshop, said after the McCarrick scandal, “For all of us, to be Catholic we need to be faithful even when others aren’t. Even when those who are in authority aren’t, we need to continue to be faithful to the Lord. The gates of hell will not prevail over Jesus’ Church.”

Below are four things that you can do as we work to purify the Church:

  1.  Pray the Rosary. We at Relevant Radio® invite you to join us in praying a decade of the Rosary every hour for three days in reparation for the sins of clergy sexual abuse and for the healing of the victims and our Church. We will pray each decade on-air at the beginning of every program hour.
  2. Write to your local bishop and let him hear the voice of his flock. Encourage him in any efforts he has made to address clerical abuse, and suggest any ways that the Church can better secure the protection of minors and the holiness of our priests.
  3. Make reparation for the sins and sacrilege of abusive priests by offering a Holy Hour of Reparation before the Blessed Sacrament. You can find instructions and prayers for the Holy Hour of Reparation here.
  4. St. Francis of Assisi observed an annual ‘Lent of St. Michael’ from the Feast of the Assumption on August 15 to the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel on September 29. Treat this period as a time of prayer and fasting. Ask for the intercession of St. Michael to dispel the demons in our Church, and of St. Francis to help us rebuild the Church as he did in his own time.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.