It was a year ago—liturgically speaking, if not calendrically so—that I was in Vienna, attending the Maundy Thursday service at the Stephansdom. Cardinal Schönborn—who is reputed to be papabile—presided. Now the Roman Church in Austria is reeling from an abuse crisis, and only yesterday Schönborn presided at a "Day of Repentance" service in an attempt to acknowledge the Church's complicity in shielding abusers. This would be rather passé for us Americans, except that more allegation-makers (er, 'allegators'?) have stepped forward with details about a pedophile priest in the archdiocese of Milwaukee.
The thing everyone prefers to argue about, of course, is the root cause of this scandal. In more liberal quarters the tendency is to blame, besides an insular and hierarchical culture that encourages unswerving loyalty, the mandatory celibacy required for all (Western-rite) priests. More conservative commentators, such as the charming Bill Donohue, have put all the blame on homosexuals. (Did you catch the Catholic League's quarter-page advertisement on the editorial page of the NY Times this week?)
Of course, the best way to go about this scientifically would be to split Catholic priests into two groups, identical save for the fact that one group also has married priests, and the other group has no queers—not even, or rather, especially not, the closeted ones. Give both groups twenty years, and tally the number of abuse cases.
What would be the result? Well, I don't know. I'm resigned that there will always be pedophiles; even the most disgusting abuse of trust can be explained by the fact that people are sinners, all of them. But what gets my figurative goat is that the Church hierarchy, either by design or by neglect, failed to stop the bad priests. How, exactly, are Church leaders working to alter the system in which abuse could not only occur, but recur? If the Romans are to maintain any credibility as the visible Body of Christ on earth, they've got some reforms to enact.