What will the ultimate cost of the abuse scandal be for the Catholic church?

Watched Spotlight recently, and it won best picture lately. My immediate thought after the movie was, “How does this organization stay in business?”

Last year it was reported that the church had paid out $4 billion in direct costs over the past 65 years, and had lost more than 2.3 billion annually over the past 30 years in lost memberships and deferred giving. Are they just so ridiculously wealthy that they can afford to hemorrhage cash like that? Or do they make it up by scrimping on the thichness of gold leaf? :rolleyes:

I’m was raised catholic - my 3 sisters remain catholic. I understand the nostalgia of what you were raised in, but can’t understand why folk would want to remain associated with an organization that seems to have enabled and covered up such longstanding and widespread despicable practices. But worldwide, membership is [url= http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/global-catholic-population-number-priests-down-1980] up 57% since 1980, tho numbers of priests are down.

A number of organizations would love to be able to weather such storms so well. Is the catholic brand just so strong and old that people are that resistant to change? Is there ANYTHING the church could do that would cause the flock to stray?

I think the current Pope has done a lot to improve the brand.

It doesn’t surprise me in the least. If you’re a believing Catholic you know there’s bad in the world, and if you know anything about the church’s history you know that there were far worse episodes in the past. I think most believers would be saddened and ashamed by the scandal, but why would the faults of imperfect men necessarily imperil their vision of god?

Plus, I suspect that the scandal just didn’t really touch enough people’s lives. I was raised Catholic, too, and moved around a lot as a kid and was part of lots of parishes in lots of areas. Went to Catholic school for a few years, was an altar boy, etc. My experience - and that of the great majority of my relatives and friends who were raised Catholic (I want to say “all” because I can’t think of anyone who had a horrible, scarring experience that I’m aware of, though I may not know or may be blanking on something) - was fine. Church was kind of boring, but it was fun to sing the songs and get donuts afterwards and church potlucks and bingo nights were good times. I left the church pretty quickly after leaving home, but it had nothing to do with the scandals, which were creeping into public consciousness around that time. I suspect a lot of people had similar experiences.

Frankly, I think a far greater threat to the church’s longevity than the abuse scandal is the rise of evangelical Christianity, for the simple reason that it’s more lively and fun. The critical words in the above paragraph are not “abuse scandal,” but “kind of boring.” Catholic Mass is a lot of reciting of prayers, standing, kneeling, half-hearted songs, and kindly but usually non-rousing sermons. Friends who were raised in evangelical churches, on the other hand, make it sound like a giant party. The music is better, the emotions are higher, the sermons are more fiery. A startling number of Hispanic-Americans I know - typically the children of Mexican or Central-American immigrants - were raised in churches like that. Their forefathers, I imagine, were rock-ribbed Catholics, their grandmothers wearing lace veils to Mass and weeping on their knees to statues of the Blessed Virgin. But so many in the current generation were raised to be just “Christian,” as though the version of Protestant evangelicalism that they were raised in - be it in mega-churches or tiny storefront shops - were the purest definition of the word. That, if anything, is what might eventually whittle away the Catholic church to nothing.

I’m not at all a fan of organized religion, and am thrilled at what appears to be a progressive (albeit glacial) decline in belief. But I’m just having a hard time getting my head around the question of what other large institutions could so well weather disclosure of an organized coverup of such apparently widespread illegal and immoral activity. Yeah, the bankers were amoral crooks, but they didn’t physically rape children…

Faith is indeed a curious thing.

Have many church officials been held criminally liable for covering up and enabling the pedophile priests? Or has it been the standard story where the small fish get caught, and the bigger fish get away?

From what I am aware, people who take advantage of children generally are selective of their targets. They don’t indiscriminately feel up every child they encounter. Rather, they pick children who they are attracted to, who they feel they can control, who don’t have a home situation that will allow the child to complain, etc. So while it may well be that you and most Catholics did not encounter any questionable behavior, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the bad eggs were limited to a small percentage of churches, in other peoples’ towns.

In the film, they quote an average 6% offendership rate. Based on data from the Catholic church, it looks like there’s an average of 1 priest per parish.


There’s no reason to expect the 6% number to vary by region, so if you were in and out of 8 churches, there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ve attended a church run by a predator priest.

The Church has survived much worse.

The long-term trend is likely to be (as tomndebb has mentioned), a trend from Eurocentric to Afro- or -LatinAmerican- centric faithful.

I suspect that any population, given the money and education now common in the traditional RCC base, will also lose faith.

South America seems to be considered “ripe for picking” by several religions - LDS, RCC, Baptist all seem to be doing the “Missionary Thing” there.

The NCR number is a disingenuous one if I’ve ever seen one. The global population is up 67% since 1980, so as a percentage of the world population, Catholicism is in decline. Most of the growth in the Catholic Church, such as it is, has happened in Africa, either through high birth rates or Animist --> Catholic conversions. Among Europeans, North Americans and Latin Americans, the Catholic Church is seeing a mass hemorrhage of believers (mostly away from organized religion entirely in Europe, towards Protestantism in Latin America, and a mix of the two in north America, although there’s a mixture in all three).

Belief in the supernatural isn’t going anywhere, and neither is organized religion in some way, shape or form, but the Catholic Church really is in some serious trouble, as is mainline Protestantism.

I’ve seen what kind of money professional Catholics can generate if they are bidding at fundraising auctions for that quilt their grandkids class made. It’s boggling. I would guess that coughing up $4 billion is not even a pin prick relative to the latent wealth of devout Catholics and by extension the Church.