Controversial Boston CardinalBernard Law has resigned over his handling of alleged cases of sex abuse in his archdiocese.
An offer of his resignation had been made to the Pope in April but was not accepted by the pontiff.
The cardinal flew to Rome last week after abruptly cancelling an appearance at Sunday mass, as pressure grew on him to resign.
Cardinal Law has beenfacing widespread calls for his resignation amid allegations that hisarchdiocese allowed priests accused of abuse to keep their jobs.
The Boston archdiocese is facing more than 400 civil lawsuits over child abuse claims and is threatening to file for bankruptcy.
What now for the Catholic Church in the US? Can trust ever be restored?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The angry language of those blaming Catholicism and/or Christianity forthis situation is a frightening reminder of the scapegoating andintolerance that has been aimed at the Christian Church in centuriespast. Tradition and orthodoxy still have a place in society, providingus with the solid foundations we need to achieve great things together.Unfortunately, these horrible crimes have provided some with theammunition necessary to denounce a mostly benevolent organisation.Their motives should be questioned, as we pray for and work towardjustice. The Church asks priests to be holy, but none of us forgettheir humanity or their fallibility.
These horrible crimes have provided some with the ammunition necessary to denounce a mostly benevolent organisation
Of course trust can berestored in the Catholic Church again. The only question is how we canbegin to trust our Parish Priests around our children. It's going totake a very long time. We are all going to take it one day at a timeand continue to pray. I am also glad that we live in a country of lawand order and that all the priests who committed these crimes arebrought to justice.
Frank Agudah,Dallas, Tx, USA
For years the CatholicChurch has covered up everything from priests having affairs with womento sex scandals. Finally, people are standing up and not allowing thisto continue. They are not above the law.
Ed Jerlinski, New Hampshire, USA
Rome had better watch out. The American legal system has a way oftearing corrupt and vice ridden organisations to pieces. The Church iswide open to a nationwide and systematic legal campaign, just like theasbestos and tobacco companies. There will be justice, but it will takedecades to see the end of this.
It will take decades to see the end of this
Peter Vevang, USA
Peter Vevang, USA
From the beginning of theChurch's history it has been walking after society, so why do we thinkit is going to be different now?
Angel Bohorquez, Spain
Trust in the CatholicChurch is for Catholics to decide. What is for society to decide iswhether criminal acts have been perpetrated and appropriate actiontaken. Furthermore this should be a wake up call to all of us about thevulnerability of children and minors to individuals like this. Childrenbrought up in Catholic families (or any religion for that) areindoctrinated with the rhetoric from the pulpit from an early age. As aconsequence the "Fear of God" becomes intrinsic and this is how thesepeople get away with such acts.
You are sadly mistaken ifyou think this kind of abuse would disappear by simply allowing prieststo marry. Marriage does not cure paedophilia. This is not,fundamentally, about sex or sexual orientation. It is about power andtrust and the abuse of both. It is abominable that these trusted men ofthe cloth exploited the avenue of their own sickness to abuse thatpower and trust, but they would be and will continue to be sexualabusers if they are defrocked or allowed to marry or take up othersexual relationships.
There may have been manyself-serving reasons for the church instituting the vow of celibacy,but those who take it do so because they are called to serve God. Thefact that many find themselves unable to keep that vow does not meanthat the church is wrong for asking it of them.
R McNaughton Phillips, USA
Catholic leaders around the world should end this practice, they shouldunderstand that they have failed, and that they can no longer givespiritual guidance to their followers. Because whatever guidance theygive is bad. Everything it can offer can basically be bettered by anyother religion. Western Christianity is dying with the Catholic Church.
Western Christianity is dying with the Catholic Church
About time the Church ofRome accepted that they have done something wrong. Now they must forcemore resignations. The Roman Church's lies and misdeeds have gone onfor much too long. Who kept us in Dark Ages for so long? They disgustme!
John Karsan, UK
It does not surprise methat the most damning condemnation comes from those outside theCatholic Church. Yet, having said this I do agree that the Church doeshave a social responsibility towards all people. It may be true that attimes the values of such a big institution need to be re-examined, butit is also true that society as a whole needs to look at how itpresents itself in the new Millenium. Threatening the Church bywithdrawing donations seems very short sighted to me.
Enrico, Rome, Italy
What is all this rubbish about allowing priests to marry in order tocurtail child abuse? Most child abuse takes place in the child's ownhome by the people the child should most trust. The problem here isthat "power attracts the corruptible". Perhaps those best suited topriesthood are the men who don't want to be priests.
Perhaps those best suited to priesthood are the men who don't want to be priests
Sounds like most of theresponses on this page are from non-Catholics. It is up to Catholics todecide if they want to be part of the Church or not. We don't needbiased non-Catholics to make our decisions.
It's comments likePatrick's (from USA) that highlight the issues involved. Criminal actshave been committed and he states that it should be resolved byCatholics and that non-Catholics should keep their noses out. That isexactly the reason why there is a problem today. The Church actedautonomously and covertly to 'resolve' the problems but only acted in aself-serving way. Until the Catholic Church can be transparent in theiractions they do not deserve to be trusted.
I am proud to be Catholic and will die Catholic. But I do believe that those individuals need to be dealt with regardless.
Owen O'Connor, South Africa
The Catholic Church suffers from its bad choices. First, it decided toprohibit its priests from having wives. Second, it attempts to shieldits lawbreakers, in this case child molesters, from their legalresponsibility. Until the Catholic Church changes its policy onmarriage for its priests, and submits its criminal offenders tocriminal and civil action, it is disserving its followers.
It is disserving its followers
Many have suggested thatpriests should be allowed to marry. I completely agree and it'scertainly not biblically supported that they should not. I'm sure thereason for this outdated church policy is that the Vatican is notwilling to sacrifice its enormous income to support a priest's wife andseveral children.
The offenders should beallowed to remain priests... in prison. Forgiveness has nothing to dowith allowing someone to sin again. You can be "forgiven" by God andthe Church for murder, but you do penance in jail.
Remove the root cause.God said, "It is not good for man to be alone". Listen to what God saidand all priests including the Pope immediately submit to God's wisdomand get married.
This is really a questionabout justice and forgiveness. The Church should be about both, justicefor the victim and forgiveness for the perpetrator. This is theChristian faith. If we want strong justice, then why can't we havestrong forgiveness?They seem to be two sides of the same coin.
This is what happens when you have a state within the state. Just likeorganised crime or big corporations, they are above the law and show notransparency and no accountability. What surprises me, though, is thateveryone has always known of this stuff being rife, yet people seem tobe surprised.
Everyone has always known of this stuff being rife, yet people seem to be surprised
There not only needs tobe a change in the heart of Catholics as to how they deal with theChurch, the civil authorities must also have the courage of theiroffice. As a Catholic myself the solution I recommend is withholdingfrom the collection baskets. If you want to get the Church's attentionthat should do it. If the importance of an issue can be determined bythe number of sermons given about it, I would say money is in the topthree.
Pat, Philadelphia, USA
Does anyone wonder whythere is very unhealthy democracy in most Catholic countries? Why wouldany nation want this type of mentality as displayed by Cardinal Lawapplied to society at large?
It seems that the threatof litigation in America scares them more than the fires of hell!Having attended a Catholic school briefly I have no sympathy for JP IIor his ilk.
Lawrence Taylor, Japan
This is a spiritual warthat must be fought in the spirit. A lot of people have been sayingthings that do not befit Christians at all. The Catholic Church has noproblem at all - it is just some individuals that need to change.
I don't think you'll find any more incidents of sexual abuse per headby Catholic priests than any other religion. However the celibacy vowsprobably don't help matters. What I think most people will findupsetting and disenchanting is the way that these allegations have beenhandled. The Church seems more interested in protecting its own thanprotecting its image.
The Church seems more interested in protecting its own than protecting its image
The Catholic Church as anorganisation is more interested in protecting the accused priests thanin protecting their victims. As long as this remains the case, who cantrust it?
Katherine Willsea, USA
This is probably thebeginning of the end. Let's not forget that there must be thousands ofcases of abuse that never made the headlines, and there must have beenhundreds of thousands of abusive priests in the past who were nevercaught. The Church must allow priests to marry and stop living in anunnatural and unhealthy way.
Agha Ata, USA
Too much importance isgiven to the clergy. Individual prayers must be encouraged and rooms ormeeting places where people come in contact with the priests should berearranged in modern office style with an open view concept. Abusingthe trust is a serious offence and anyone found of an indecent act orabuse should be prosecuted.
John Henry, Singapore
Perhaps the Vaticandoesn't understand the damage it has caused to its most generousbenefactors. That reality might sink in when the contributions startdrying up.
Amid the media coverage of the Catholic problem, a respected USnewspaper, The Christian Science Monitor, has quietly reported thatsexual abuse occurs more often in the Protestant churches, and abuse isalso worse in US society at large than it is among Catholic priests.There ought to be a uniform way of dealing with Catholic priests whoabuse children, but the suggestion that corrupt priests are alwaysdealt with wrongly, even if true, says nothing about the marginalproportions of these mistakes.
There ought to be a uniform way of dealing with Catholic priests who abuse children
After centuries of beingin positions of power, the Church is being stripped and humbled. Shewill come out of these crises stronger and perfected. Why? Becausethese sins of the past will eventually promote and give witness to thepower of forgiveness.
The Roman Catholic Churchcould have set a good example with their handling of this problem.Instead they have attacked the messenger (the press), hired expensivePR firms and gone after the victims in ways that would be consideredcontemptible if done by organised crime. Last week a Mafia boss diedand was denied a Mass by the Catholic Church. If he had doneconsiderably more damage to society, yet were a priest, he would havebeen treated much better.
Bill Carter, USA
The Church tolerates parishioners with big pockets because it is acharitable organisation. So as the Church continues to give forgivenessto the big contributors, it also is willing to allow the inside rot tocontinue. It has also become corrupt as so many other institutions.It's another big cover up.
The Church continues to give forgiveness to the big contributors
The general reaction inthe US press is that it will be very difficult to restore trust. TheChurch still fails to recognise that it has a systemic problem with theway that it recruits and trains priests and in the way that it tries tokeep scandals secret. The Church is still trying to make this appear tobe a series of isolated incidents and Bishops are still givingstatements making the victims partially responsible for molestation.
If the Church wouldabandon (or at least temper) its corporate mentality, it would not onlyprompt a restoration of trust, but also a restoration of its ownpastoral identity. The hierarchy is more frightened by the threat oflawyers than the reproach of heaven.
Robert del Valle,USA
There is still a lot oftrust in the Church because for every molesting priest, there arethousands who do not. The only people who have no trust in the CatholicChurch are non-Catholics, and that doesn't bother Catholics muchanyway. Trust will be restored as this institution is too old and toolarge to be shaken to its foundation by such a crisis, regardless ofits scope.
Gordon Silliker,United States
Here in the US the Churchis in disarray. Now we hear that it has been suggested at the Bishop'sconference that if a priest had only one episode in his past, he couldstay on in the Church. They just don't get it. There's no such thing asone episode. I've heard the experiences of these victims who have beeninterviewed and it is sickening, not to mention the damage and nearsuicides.
Vivienne Bluett,Los Angeles, USA
Having attended a Jesuit school in Darjeeling where I was sexuallyabused by an Irish priest, I wonder why the focus is solely on Americanpriests? What about those of us in other parts of the world who wereabused but had no chance to speak out? I am from Nepal. My parentsthought I was receiving the best education from the most wise andcompassionate men. I lost my faith in all religion at that time. Myparents will never know the pain I suffered at the hands of this man,who came to a poor country to rape young boys. The Catholic church issick...
I wonder why the focus is solely on American priests?
Prem Pulami, USA
The Catholic church is asdead as a doornail if it doesn't obviously and truthfully reform itselfsoon. Superiors have totally lost touch with what the people they servethink, and operate the institution in such a way as to add no value tothem.
David M. Radka,USA
If radical liberalsweren't constantly trying to reform the Church, we wouldn't have hadthese problems in the first place. Get rid of the liberals, and thenthe trust will be restored.
Most of this would stopif they would just let priests marry. I am not condoning these priests,but what kind of religion is it that will not permit normal sexualinteraction between male and female? Seems weird to me.
Judith Di Chio, Canada
I agree with turning priests over to the secular authorities when theyare accused of this crime. But rather than removing them from thepriesthood when they return from serving whatever sentence the secularcourt gives them, I think that the church should allow them to stay inthe priesthood but require them to remain cloistered in monasteries forthe rest of their natural lives.
The church should require them to remain cloistered in monasteries for the rest of their natural lives
Joy Jones, USA
Joy Jones, US
Is this limited to theCatholic Church ? I don't believe so. It is covered up in otherreligions and most abhorrently with in families. Paedophiles neverreform and cannot be treated. Lock them up forever.
I am a Catholic and forme the church is the rock on which my faith rests. I am verydisappointed over the scandals. Extreme measures should be takenagainst such offenders and they should be brought to account and bemade to repent publicly. I am aware of the lack of enthusiasm by clergyand Bishops for self correction. I have had occasion to report a priestto my bishop whom I regarded as being out of order in matters of faithand morals, however the response I got was one of pouring oil ontroubled waters rather than addressing the real issue. My confidence incertain clergy is low, however in others it is high!
r steward, Great Britain
As a practising ChristianI despair at the people who use the Church to get into positions wherethey can abuse others and the pathetic self-centred leadership thatallows it. Trust is like a piece of china and once broken is impossibleto mend. This will take more than a generation to restore any semblanceof trust in a church that has shown that it protects its own without athought for the injured and abused. What price Christian principles?
Terry Emerson, London, UK
Zero tolerance is not enough. The clergy who were aware of theincidents should be convicted too for perverting the course of justice.Lives have been damaged permanently. The clean up has to be thoroughand permanent. One wonders, if this has happened in the US with arather open society for so long, what is happening with the defencelesspoor children in Asian and African countries, where is Church is seenas the most powerful institution. The fact that the Church movedsuspected clergy from one parish to the next means the Church too as aninstitution wanted to cover the whole matter up. No amount offorgiveness will repay a shattered life.
Zero tolerance is not enough
Jude Machado, England
Jude Machado, England
I agree with Axle fromBelgium. In my view, belief and faith in God is a deep personal matterand should be kept as such. "Organised" religious belief has beennothing but trouble for the w world. Keep it simple folks and becomehumans so that you can aspire to reach God.
This whole scandal hasbrought shame to the whole Church. There needs to be a top to bottomsearch. Any offenders need to be thrown out of the priesthood. But moreimportantly, the ambiguities between canon and civil law need to beaddressed. If priests and bishops are US citizens, they must be heldsubject to US and state laws. Paedophilia is and should be a seriouscrime. All proven offenders, be they priests, bishops, or cardinals,belong in jail.
These are the people whostand in their pulpits and preach to us about how we should do this andshouldn't do that, and yet they're obviously no better than anyoneelse. What happened to the ten commandments? There should be noquestion about the zero tolerance approach; what happens if anotherperson in a position of trust betrays the people who they serve, forexample if a teacher abuses a child? They'd lose their job. Why shouldclergymen be any different? It's about time the church got their actinto gear and did something about it like any other responsibleorganisation would.
Ian Jones, UK
I used to be a practisingCatholic. Having seen all the atrocities caused by religion to normalpeople, I've decided to cut out the middle man. If I want to talk toGod, I'll do it. I don't need a man in a dress to tell me how.
Peter Connolly, England
It worries me that many people seem to be pouncing on these scandalswith something approaching glee, relishing the opportunity to passhasty judgment on the Church (especially those who think theyunderstand the Church just because they are Catholic by birth). TheCatholic faith has never justified child abuse - it's simply ludicrousto suppose otherwise. As an organisation, however, it is made up ofhuman beings with weaknesses and flaws. Child abusers come from allwalks of life, and we should blame the people who commit abuse(although often they are very damaged and vulnerable too) not theiremployers, or the religion they belong to (which condemns theiractions). Those damning Catholicism altogether on the basis of thishave an agenda which has nothing to do with the welfare of children.
Those damning Catholicism altogether on the basis of this have an agenda which has nothing to do with the welfare of children
Basically, criminal actshave been committed. The only right and proper thing for the church todo is to hand over the offending priests to the police for prosecution.Anything less would be deemed a conspiracy to pervert the course ofjustice. It's as simple as that. The church is subordinate to the lawsof the land, not an alternative to it.
Graham Rodhouse,The Netherlands
The Church is a hospitalfor sinners, not a rest home for saints. However having said that Jesusteaches that sinners should genuinely repent of their sins, seekforgiveness for them and go and sin no more. A major way to follow thisdictum is for a priest to remove himself voluntarily or be forced tomove from any situation in which further sexual sin is likely.
These physical abuses surely are indicative of the spiritual conditionof many inside the church. If I was a Catholic I would be questioningmore than the integrity of the priesthood as this problem surely pointsto a lack of spiritual life in the church. The more details that comeout about abuses across the world, the more the doctrines that thesepeople espouse become meaningless. Thank God for the reformation.
These physical abuses surely are indicative of the spiritual condition of many inside the church
M Hall, Northern Ireland
M Hall, Northern Ireland
There can be no furthertrust in any form of religion. It seems to be either an outmoded way tocontrol the masses and prevent uprising against the richer classes oran excuse to kill people. In this day and age we have the scientificproof that most of the teachings are just not true - so let's all growup and stop believing in fairy tales and get on with working togethertoward a brighter future!May the force be with you!
This horrible episode shows perfectly that the Church does nothing toprotect its people in the modern society of today. If people choose tohave faith in God, they are now realising that they must reject theChurch and find faith as an individual.
The Church does nothing to protect its people
They shouldn't bediscussing zero tolerance, they should have been practising it fromwhen the Church was set up. The phrase 'reform or die' comes to mind.
I think the CatholicChurch is a force of great good and certainly could do a lot betterwith a more liberal Pope. The clear failing is the inability of prieststo marry. This is a ridiculous rule and there is nothing in the Bibleto support this. Peter as first Pope was married. In the Church ofEngland vicars are usually married and they form a team. I would liketo see married priests, women priests and a woman Pope. If priests aregay then they should be open and married to their partners. Opennessand honesty and natural relationships are a necessary humanrequirement, obviously it doesn't tackle paedophiles but it does go along way to supporting priests and giving them normal lives. The GreekOrthodox Church also seems to allow this.
O Blackbourn, Germany
The vast majority ofCatholics are (like the vast majority of society) good people,disgusted and horrified that such things have gone on in their midst.We should not tar everyone with the same brush. This should never beallowed to happen again, but don't forget the great deal of good thatCatholics do. The religion isn't at fault, it's the individuals thattook those actions who are the ones at fault.
Stephanie Clarke, UK
This isn't the firstexample of sheer lack of perspective from the Catholic Church. In thepast, "infidels" (take the victims of the original crusades and theinquisition) and controversial researchers (take Galileo) have beenterrorised and abused by the Church. The revelation that an institutionwhich has historically valued salvation through suffering would stillfind itself entangled in the abuse of the defenceless, brings reallynothing new under the sun. It's time for society to grow up fromreligion, and move on.
Thomas Carlsson, Finland
This whole Church scandalisn't a surprise to me. The people whom you expect to do good are themain ones doing wrong. The Catholic Church has been corrupt since dayone. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and I believe that this willgo on as long as the Catholic Church is still allowed to operate underthe conditions that are taking place now!
The rotten core of society is represented neatly by religion and all it stands for. It just disgusts me.
As a lifelong Catholic, Ihave to say it cannot be restored as long as the offending bishops areallowed to continue in their current capacities. Sodomy is apparentlythe unspoken sacrament of the Church to be defended with as much energyand commitment as earlier generations defended transubstantiation.
Stephen M Pickstone MD,USA
I actually haven't lost my confidence. The Church is an organisation ofsinners. It's who we are. Mistakes have been made. We must now correctthem. I'm not really in favour of zero tolerance. It seems to defy theChurch's goal of forgiveness. And I'm still unclear on what kind ofevidence (or just a "credible accusation") would be required beforeremoving someone from the priesthood. I'm worried that the burden ofproof is being set too low.
Zero tolerance defies the Church's goal of forgiveness
Dan Wentzel, USA
Dan Wentzel, USA
I imagine they could restore trust by not molesting children.
Order an independentreview whose findings will be made public; ensure that those guilty ofcriminal behaviour are prosecuted; ensure that senior cardinals whoabrogated responsibility in taking tough decisions are relieved oftheir duties; elect a maverick as the senior cardinal in the US; planfor drop in attendances for 3-5 years; accept that it will take adecade to restore faith in the institution; behave honourably for adecade.
I agree that the policyshould be zero tolerance. All such offenders should be turned over tothe civil authorities for prosecution. Treatment, yes but ministry, nota chance. We are not dealing with a misdemeanor here but a felony. I ama Roman Catholic and I have been absolutely disgusted with the Church'shandling of this issue and the cover-up by the bishops.
The measures beingdiscussed seem only to be ways to punish priests after the offence. Isuggest that a "buddy" system be instituted - any meeting with a priestshould take place with a minimum of two people.
I have never trustedinstitutions. I trust people I know, and believe the teachings I havestudied. Trust the art not the artist. Trust in God.
Lou Mason, USA
The ostentatious wealthof the Catholic Church should be sold off and donated to centres thatcould be set up worldwide for the help and healing of victims of abuse,not just caused by Catholics, but by any abuser.
Johanna Boulanger,Florida USA
The Catholic Church needsto rid itself of ALL people connected with the abuse cases and theircover-up as soon as possible. All this stalling and doubletalk are onlytarnishing its already disgraced image. The longer they wait to takeaction, the more people will lose faith and the emptier the collectiontray will become.
John,San Antonio, Texas, USA
Trust cannot be restored to American Catholics, especially me.
The question ought to be"Should trust in the RC Church be restored?" The Roman Catholic Churchis a totally out of date autocracy, propagating a doctrine and dogmathat no longer meets a need and which is actually of negative value inthe modern world. Roman Catholicism is grossly overdue for radicalreform.
Ken Simmonds, South Africa
I think any priests whocommitted such crimes should be removed and turned over to theauthorities. Most importantly, I believe their superiors who were awareof abuse and did nothing or covered it up should also be removed andturned over to the authorities.
Joe Wesson, United States