An American Epiphany
Bishops have resigned, and those left have had to deal with a crisis of morale among priests who have watched their peers consigned to oblivion by the hundreds. Dioceses have been forced to ride waves of parish and school closures, which has contributed to disenchantment among rank-and-file Catholics....Feedback welcome.
Continuing to overshadow it all is the cloud of what was once US Catholicism’s proudest bastion, Boston, now reduced to a mass of division, infighting and heartbreak. When, by the end of 2002, popular fury over the scandals led to Cardinal Bernard Law – the senior American cleric seen as the force behind Boston’s strategy of reassigning predator priests – being forced into early retirement, there was hope of the restoration of credibility in the archdiocese. But despite the best endeavours of his successor, the Capuchin Sean P. O’Malley, these hopes remain unfulfilled....
[A]n attempt to push through a plan involving the closing or merging of 62 parishes has fuelled strong currents of betrayal and hurt in the archdiocese. “The wound is still raw, but people have learned to live with it,” said one Boston pastor who asked not to be identified. He compared the closings in the immediate aftermath of the abuse revelations to “a one-two punch”.
“One thing I keep hearing from people is, ‘You know, Father, if it weren’t for our parish, I wouldn’t be Catholic anymore, I wouldn’t want anything to do with the Church’,” said the Boston priest. “[Parishioners] want nothing to do with [the chancery offices], they want to send no money there whatsoever, and we’ve seemingly been pushed into a corner of a congregational Church. And we [priests] have to go up there and say, ‘Without that communion [with the Archbishop], we’re not Catholic; the Church is more than just our parish, and we need to be united with it’.” Yet at the same time, “there is the sense that [priests] have been left hanging to dry.”
While parishioners remain incredulous and disheartened about the scandals, many priests feel beleaguered, besieged and uncared for, especially when saddled with having to tell the hierarchy the extent of the laity’s disillusionment.