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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Jennifer Roback Morse | author
Oct 01, 2019
Filed under Culture of Life

Our finest hour: how Laity can help Church overcome abuse crisis

Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is the most serious issue facing the Church today. The legal and financial ramifications are immense. Even more damaging is the spiritual fall-out. Some Catholics, including victims and their families, are leaving the Church in disgust. Some non-Catholics have become more aggressively opposed to the Church. In spite of all this, this calamity may be our Finest Hour, comparable to the British during WWII.

Perhaps surprisingly, the depth of this crisis confirms the truth of Church teaching on sexual morality. Catholic clergy sexual abuse is one facet of the toxic sexual culture that pervades today’s society. If people had done what the Church teaches, literally none of this abuse, inside or outside the Church, would have happened. Thoughtful people are ready to reconsider their commitments to the Sexual Revolutionary ideology.

The Catholic version of the culture-wide sexual abuse scandal has its own unique features. In most sectors of society, the numbers of boy and girl victims are roughly equal. But the victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse have been roughly 80% male. My organization, the Ruth Institute, has done the most comprehensive statistical analysis of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. Our reports show that the incidence of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is over 90% correlated with the number of self-described homosexual clergy. Perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse are concentrated in certain age groups. Two “graduating classes” of priests, one group ordained in the late 1960s and the other in the early 1980s, account for a disproportionate percentage of sexual abuse. Our data shows that self-described homosexual clergy are more likely to struggle with celibacy and are less likely to accept Church teaching on sexual morality.

On the bright side, newly ordained priests appear to be different. The incidence of clergy sexual abuse fell in the early 2000s (although it has shown a disturbing recent increase). Recent cases of clergy sexual abuse are about equally divided between male and female victims. Recently ordained clergy appear to be less likely to be homosexually active.

This really is a “bright side.” These findings suggest that appropriate changes in attitudes and policies inside the Church could help prevent future abuse. We, as laymen and laywomen, can play an important role in changing the climate within our Church. The Ruth Institute proposes a simple three-part strategy.

1. Support the victims. Protect the innocent. The Church must acknowledge the pain of the victims and help them heal. We must also remain vigilant in protecting all minors, boys and girls alike, from sexual abuse. “We” includes everyone, clergy and laity, young and old.

2. No new “gay” ordinations. Seminaries and dioceses should follow the Church’s long-established policy of not ordaining men with deep-seated same-sex attraction.

3. Teach the whole truth about Christian sexual morality. The Church should increase educational programs on authentic Church teaching on human sexuality, including Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Traditional Christian sexual ethics protects the interests of children, women, men, and society. Laymen and laywomen can contribute to this goal, both by encouraging their local Catholic institutions, and by their own educational and apostolic work.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to us, we have been chosen to live in this time and in this place. We have a responsibility to future generations to conduct ourselves with courage, clarity,s, and charity. In spite of all the attacks, both in the natural and super-natural realm, we must persevere. Our Lord and His Blessed Mother can use this terrible crisis for good. Let it be said of us, “This was their finest hour.” 

JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE, PH.D. is founder and president of the Ruth Institute. Their reports on clergy sexual abuse, “Is Catholic clergy sex abuse related to homosexual priests?” and “Receding Waves: Clergy Sexual Abuse Since 2000,” can be found at, including access to the Ruth institute newsletter, podcast or You-tube channel. Their recently released petition to Make the Family Great Again, can be found at


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