Unknown History of the Most Influential Power in History

The Catholic Church- the founding pillar of morality and purity in society, the judger and condemner of sin throughout history – has sinned itself. The sin has grown in the shadows of society, hidden under corruption and desperate attempts to save one’s reputation, but, unfortunately, the darkness only serves as temporary shelter until the allegations are brought to public light.

Catholicism’s moral compass has recently faced affirmations of sexual abuse of minors by diocese members. but the most upsetting truth is that these allegations have been years in the making, dating back to the 20th century. The Church has had full knowledge of the behavior their clergy were engaging in but instead of implementing legal or formal measures, chose the path of ignorance and corruption so as to protect their reputation and international identity. The significant number of abuses were and have been made possible due to the church’s perseverance in covering up the allegations and forcing them to remain hidden away from public knowledge. Leading Catholic figures did not approach legal measures as responses to the illegal abuses but instead silently transferred and relocated priests involved in allegations to other parishes- a failed attempt to solve a problem that only provided abusers with new children who would become future victims.

Child abuses under the Church were mostly unknown until a 2002 Boston Globe muckraking article published credible research that delineated sexual abuse occurring in the Boston community- where more than 70 priests had sexually abused children. Since the majority of Boston’s population identified as Catholic, many chose to deny the allegations due to their religious bias and even officials of law enforcement hesitated to act against the powerful religious institution, choosing to deny the allegations instead. The Church itself also resorted to personal measures to hide their actions, bribing victims who threatened to voice their stories publicly with a financial incentive in exchange for silence. The Church grew so dependent on its wealth to respond to the allegations, paying over $3 billion to victims in the 2000s, that the financial spending began to impact the organization as 19 dioceses have since declared bankruptcy.

Preventative measures against the sexual abuse were taken in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the form of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that established a ‘zero tolerance’ approach towards abuse within the Catholic Church and stated that all future allegations would be placed in the hands of law enforcement. After the charter was ratified, the Church’s policies reflected positive change against child molestation as the number of allegations significantly decreased- but the Church continued to crumble under the revelations from prior years.

Two years following the charter’s ratification, a report from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice revealed the extent of abuse in the domestic Church between 1950 and 2002. The staggering statistics published disclosed that despite 4,392 priests being accused of child molestation, only 252 were criminally convicted and only 100 of those served jail time. It was divulged that the Church had previously given priests religious treatments intended for cleansing the soul of sinners, such as reconciliation and had ignored legal implications that were mandatory- their acts buried in the secrecy bought for billions of dollars in corrupt settlements.

The new identity of the Catholic Church now publicized internationally has led to an expected and predicted decline in the practice of the religion as one study discovered that the attendance at religious ceremonies between 1985 and 2012 have decreased drastically from 52% to 39%. Despite the church’s efforts to preserve their reputation, the measures taken to do so became their worst foe. In response to the allegations in contemporary time, the Vatican has evolved to respond in progressively active ways as leadership changes. Popes were previously uninvolved and saw a limit to their intervention power exemplified by Pope Benedict’s claim, “My authority ends at [that] office door,” but religious leaders have assumed significant roles against the scandal. Pope Francis since assuming papacy in 2013 has established a committee solely focused on approaching the sexual misconduct, interestingly enough composed of a member who was a victim in their younger years. But, the process for progress has been gradual as the collective religious organization discovers blind spots in their ability and willingness to resolve the matter at hand.

Albeit the Catholic church’s attempt to repair their misconduct of the past, the questions still remain whether they can reclaim their reputation of morality and sanctity. How can a church preach faith when they themselves have lost the faith of their followers? How can a church preach salvation when it appears that there is little salvation for themselves?

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