For those of you who didn’t study Latin, annus horribilis means horrible year. That’s probably understating it a bit when it comes to the Catholic Church. In a year when church officials must be scratching their heads wondering what else can go wrong? something worse happens.
Just before the Pope’s much publicized summit on clerical sexual abuse, the Governor of New York signed the Child Victims Act giving abuse survivors a year to sue the Catholic Church regardless of when the abuse took place. Also, this week French sociologist and journalist Frédéric Martel has written a book in which he claims that 80% of the Vatican is homosexual. He is reported to have spent four years conducting more than 1,500 interviews, including conversations with 41 cardinals and dozens of priests and other Vatican officials. The central thesis of the 576-page book, according to the press release, is that “the more a prelate is homophobic, the more likely it is that he is himself gay.”
And then yesterday, the Vatican announced that Cardinal McCarrick has been defrocked. In more technical, churchy terms he has been reduced to the lay state. He can no longer celebrate mass or hear confessions. For most of us this isn’t such a big deal. After all, he’s 88 years old. But for someone like McCarrick it’s a deeply felt blow. Of course, he earned it but it’s a significant move by the Vatican to make a powerful cardinal an ordinary layman is a big deal.
Mind you, all of which I’ve just written has taken place in the last week! Since last summer, the church has experienced cataclysms in other parts of the country just as important. Is this the end of the Catholic Church, at least in this country? I don’t know but it’s a body blow to an institution already reeling from scandal. For them, they have no leader, no strategy, and no clue as to how to get out of this mess they created.