The Catholic Church in 2018: Sheep without shepherds

Seventeen years later, with neither the American bishops nor Pope Francis able to muster an adequate response to the revelation that a famous cardinal was a predator whose sins were known even as he rose, it’s clear that this was wrong. The Church has done much better since 2001 in the most basic task of keeping children safe. But in everything else connected to the scandal there is little progress because Catholicism’s leaders cannot agree on what progress means.

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It is clear that there is festering sexual and financial corruption in the hierarchy; it is clear that there are problems in the way the Church trains priests and selects bishops. But the Church’s theological factions are sufficiently far apart that each would rather do nothing than let the other side lead reform — because the liberals think the conservatives want an inquisition, the conservatives think the liberals want Episcopalianism, and there is some truth in both caricatures.

Thus all proposals for reform are evaluated through an ideological lens, and neither side has enough confidence to learn something from the other, or to conduct a full purification of its own ranks.

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