Catholics and lawmakers respond to sex abuse report

By Jack Jenkins

When Pennsylvania officials unveiled a report this week detailing accusations that Catholic priests had sexually abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s and that church officials shielded the abusers, the public outcry was swift. Some compared the document to The Boston Globe’s 2002 “Spotlight” investigation, which unearthed comparably horrifying allegations in Massachusetts.

But two days after the report’s release, questions remain as to what effect, if any, it will have on American Catholicism or whether it will impact how states prosecute clergy sexual abuse in the future.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor at large at America Magazine, predicted fallout from the revelations could be as far-reaching as what followed the Spotlight stories.

“We can already see the convulsive effect it has had on the church in this country,” he told RNS by email. “People are nauseated, and that includes people far from Pennsylvania. … People are more disgusted than they were in 2002, if that’s possible.”

Catholics are already expressing dismay. Alice Niles, who lives near Philadelphia, said she called her parish and altered her contributions to the church after reading the report. She said she still supports her parish but wants to find a way to prevent her funds from being used by church authorities to protect predators.

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