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$3 billion and counting: the sex-abuse scandal continues

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | May 10, 2013

If you read today’s top CWN headline quickly, you might have come away with the impression that the total costs of the sex-abuse scandal to American dioceses has been $2.62 billion. That’s not quite right. If you read the headline carefully, you’d notice that the $2.62 billion figure covers only the costs since 2004. Add in all the secret payouts and lawyers’ fees accumulated before that date, and the total cost to the faithful surely exceeds $3 billion.

That figure, of course, counts only the financial costs of the scandal. It’s impossible to place a dollar value on the innocence of children who were molested, or the faith of Catholics who became estranged from the faith, or the confidence the faithful once had in their bishops.

Still, if you read the propaganda emanating from the US bishops’ conference, and/or if you haven’t read The Faithful Departed, you might take some comfort in thinking that at least the scandal is a thing of the past—that the policies set in place by the American hierarchy in 2002 are bringing this horrible chapter in Catholic history to an end. Unfortunately, just a quick glance down today’s CWN headline menu should be enough to dash any such hopes.

In each of these cases, the prelate involved has defended his actions, denying any wrongdoing. But the accusations are grave. The faithful have every reason to be concerned, and the bishops have not found a convincing means of reassuring them. Meanwhile the payouts continue—$113 million last year—and the faithful bear the costs.

What do you suppose a top criminal-defense lawyer charges as an hourly rate? Get ready to write more checks.

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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - May. 10, 2013 7:36 PM ET USA

    Quite right. I want to add that anyone who has not read Phil's The Faithful Departed has missed the most balanced and comprehensive explanation of this catastrophe, the greatest the Church has suffered since the Protestant revolt. I would add to those cited by Phil here a fourth proof that this scandal is not finished. The case of Msgr Arsenault who resigned as CEO from the St Luke's treatment center is the fourth extremely important event. Keep your eye on this developing scandal.

  • Posted by: koinonia - May. 10, 2013 6:38 PM ET USA

    Thank you for the sober assessment. We are living in times that will be studied one day as history. Will our times be defined by corruption and decline or will there be a renewal of faith? Will we take advantage of opportunities to cooperate with divine grace and to learn from those things that are not working and from our human failings in these frenetic times? God's will be done; might history reflect that there were embers of holiness well-fueled that grew brighter and warmer in our time.

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