Crisis in the Catholic Church

January 2011 • Volume 5, Issue 1
Can the church recover from the widening sex-abuse scandal?
By Roland Flamini


Pope Benedict XVI (AFP/Getty Images/Alberto Pizzoli)
Pope Benedict XVI is dealing with new revelations of sexual abuse of children by priests. When Benedict became pope in 2005, he faced repor ts of widespread abuse by American priests. Now he is confronting new revelations of abuse by priests in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries. (AFP/Getty Images/Alberto Pizzoli)

Almost as soon as the white smoke began rising from the Sistine Chapel confirming his election, Pope Benedict XVI began seeing his pontificate hijacked by ongoing revelations of sex abuse by thousands of Roman Catholic priests. The scandal, which first erupted in the United States during his predecessor's pontificate, has become a global phenomenon, with fresh allegations of pedophilia and other priestly abuses — most of which occurred decades ago — in Ireland, Belgium, Germany, England and elsewhere, from the Philippines to Brazil. Supporters of Benedict say he has acted forthrightly to deal with the crisis; critics say that earlier, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict did not react forcefully enough. Experts now ask what long-range impact — if any — the scandal will have on the global church and its 1.2 billion faithful. The answer is murkier than it needs to be, say critics, because of the Vatican's ultra-secretiveness. More openness, they claim, might have stopped the crisis from spinning seemingly out of control.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Oct. 28, 2022  Church and State
May 29, 2020  Christians in the Mideast
Sep. 28, 2018  Christianity in America
Jun. 23, 2017  Future of the Christian Right
Jun. 07, 2013  Future of the Catholic Church
Jan. 2011  Crisis in the Catholic Church
Sep. 21, 2007  Rise of Megachurches
Sep. 14, 2001  Evangelical Christians
Feb. 26, 1999  Future of the Papacy
Dec. 11, 1998  Searching for Jesus
Jul. 22, 1988  The Revival of Religion in America
Dec. 02, 1983  Christmas Customs and Origins
Jun. 10, 1983  Martin Luther After 500 Years
Aug. 08, 1975  Year of Religion
Jul. 26, 1972  Fundamentalist Revival
Jan. 04, 1967  Religion in Upheaval
Aug. 03, 1966  Religious Rivalries in South Viet Nam
Nov. 11, 1964  Church Tax Exemption
Aug. 05, 1964  Catholic Schools
Oct. 14, 1963  Churches and Social Action
Jun. 19, 1963  Vatican Policy in a Revolutionary World
Jan. 05, 1962  Rome and Christian Unity
Mar. 26, 1958  Church-Related Education
Dec. 18, 1957  Church Consolidation
Jun. 05, 1957  Evangelism in America
Jun. 23, 1955  Religious Boom
Aug. 13, 1952  Church Unity in America
Feb. 12, 1947  Relations with the Vatican
Dec. 21, 1923  The New Schism in the Church and the Immaculate Conception
Global Issues