Criticizing bishops in the Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal

In February, a Philadelphia grand jury indicted four priests of sex abuse and found evidence that an additional 37 had also abused. The panel that reviews sex abuse cases for the Philadelphia archdiocese was as surprised as anyone. In an article in Commonweal, a lay Catholic publication, the chairwoman of the review board criticizes the archdiocese, saying it “failed miserably at being open and transparent.”

The problem, writes Ana Maria Catanzaro, was the clergy’s attitude of superiority. She writes:

So why haven’t they gotten it? In a word, clericalism. In his book Clericalism: The Death of the Priesthood, George B. Wilson, SJ, articulates “unexamined attitudes” typical of clerical cultures: “Because I belong to the clergy I am automatically credible. I don’t have to earn my credibility by my performance.” And: “Protecting our image is more important than confronting the situation.” And: “We don’t have to be accountable to the laity. We are their shepherds.”

Read The Fog of Scandal on CommonwealMagazine.org.

Comment on this article

11 Comments on "Criticizing bishops in the Philadelphia clergy abuse scandal"

Notify of


What I find so astonishing about this “independent panel” is that when the members were told that they were investigating issues of canon law that not a one of them didn’t get up out of his seat and make a bee-line to the DA’s office. It is obvious to even the most oblivious observer that they were being made party to a cover-up right off the bat. In 2003 it was apparent nationwide that there was a serious problem in the Catholic church in America. I had a friend who is a civil attorney who by 2001 was representing numerous plaintiffs who had been sexually abused by priests.

For catholics, priests are like parents. We are taught that they are the epitome of goodness, since we are small. It’s very difficult to break that programming. Spaths know this, that’s why they are attracted to that role.


Send this to a friend