Priests are supposed to be our interlocutors with God. At least that’s what I was taught in CCD, which is essentially Sunday School for Catholics. I was in the eighth grade and preparing for baptism and confirmation, but I was old enough to smell bullshit. (Something about needing to pay a divine middleman for the cleansing of my soul just never sat right with me.) For many years, my brother and I went to church every Sunday, listening to the homilies, playing in the pews, singing the hymns, vaguely aware, but without any personal knowledge, of the cliché of the pedophile Catholic priest.
By the time the Boston Globe exposed the Church’s widespread perpetuation of child rape in the early 2000s, I had already stopped going to Mass aside from major holidays. Knowing that church officials across the Vatican hierarchy actively participated in covering up the rape and molestation of children was the nail in the coffin for me. (I am now agnostic.)
A million empty words have been said and tears shed over the decades of sex abuse within the Catholic Church, but only two words matter: rape and molestation.
What more did I need to know? The Church was clearly a false one. If God did indeed exist, and God was indeed just, the Catholic Church could never be its mouthpiece. And the Church didn’t just perpetuate child rape, but also the abuse of nuns, seminarians, and other adults. In Ireland, the Church tore children from unwed mothers, many of whom were sexually abused in its care.
According to BishopAccountability.org, 6,721 priests were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors from 1950 through June 30, 2016, excluding several gaps in data from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In the same period, the USCCB counted 18,565 victims, which is undoubtedly a conservative figure given the source. According to BishopAccountability.org, “In 1993, the late Fr. Andrew Greeley estimated that 2,500 priests (fewer than half the USCCB’s current total) might have molested ‘well in excess of 100,000’ children in the United States.” That’s only the United States, and that was 25 years ago.
The Vatican itself revealed in 2014 that it had defrocked 848 priests who had raped or molested children since 2004. Another 2,572 priests received lesser penalties. Beyond the U.S., Catholic priests have waged sexual abuse in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Malta, Spain, and Switzerland.
A million empty words have been said and tears shed over the decades of sex abuse within the Catholic Church, but only two words matter: rape and molestation. We are talking about thousands of priests and tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of victims globally. Had this been the Boy or Girl Scouts would this organization still exist? Of course not. All Catholics must reflect on these crimes. Crimes waged across state and national borders, covered up much in the way mafia crimes are obscured.
The Catholic Church has proven itself immune to change. It’s time—way past time frankly—for Catholics to force it. It’s time to boycott the Catholic Church.