An Awakening Church

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In the months after the scandalous Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse, I have noticed that the questions many people in my community are asking are no longer about the protection of children or the abuse itself (though it is still an important topic). They are asking questions about church leadership, clericalism, power structures, and the role of the laity. We are recognizing that something is the matter, not just in the terrible human failure of sexual assault, but also in the very structures and mechanisms that perpetuated the decades—centuries?—long coverup of such abuse, the moving of priests, the whitewashing of the issue, and the lack of critique of the institution. Pope Francis himself has named clericalism as a major contributor to the coverup. And questions have arisen around the theological idea of “ontological change” at a priest’s ordination, which tends to put clergy on a can-do-no-wrong pedestal.

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