I recognize the fraught nature of any attempt to boycott dioceses, whether over the clerical abuse scandal or anything else. As with the controversies over Catholic and pro-abortion lawmakers—whether those individuals should seek Holy Communion, and whether priests should refuse to distribute it to them—boycotts could become politicized and trivialized.
But few who have read about the sex abuse scandal, whether in the Pennsylvania grand jury report released this summer or the all-too-similar reports and stories like it, can deny the perverted yet pervasive attitude throughout the church that led to such horrific acts. Based on their actions, far too many of its “leaders” believe that the Catholic Church exists primarily, if not solely, through institutions rather than through people—the faithful who sit in the pews every Sunday.
Financial boycotts might, by using one language bishops themselves recognize, finally rebalance that relationship. After all, if Timothy Dolan—portrayed as the antidote to the church’s crisis of confidence—could shelter $57 million in church assets from clerical abuse claims while archbishop of Milwaukee, it speaks to the way dollars drive decisions among bishops.
Perhaps then bishops might rediscover the important distinction between faith—belief in a higher power—and organized religion.