Quips and Quotes: The Catholic Church in Crisis

Author: Sarah Cahalan '14

“The problem with the reforms is that they’re not enough, really. Because reporting to the metropolitan archbishop is still reporting within a power structure rather than finding a place outside the power structure. So that’s a flaw. I think, on the other hand, we did something. And what happens when you do something at the top is, you encourage other people to do something.” — John Cavadini, Director of the McGrath Institute for Church Life


On the first day of reunion weekend late last month, an auditorium full of Notre Dame alumni took a break from campus tours and class dinners for a less lighthearted activity: a panel discussion on the child sex abuse cover-up crisis in the Catholic Church.


With Anne Thompson ’79 serving as moderator, Cavadini, Professor Kathleen Cummings ’95M.A., ’99Ph.D. of American studies and chief operating officer Betsy Bohlen ’90 of the Archdiocese of Chicago took the stage at Washington Hall to talk about the troubles plaguing the Church — and the measures being taken to respond to them.


In his remarks, Cavadini was responding to “Vos Estis Lux Mundi,” an apostolic letter Pope Francis issued in March outlining new rules for responding to abuse allegations in the Church. The suggested policies, which will be voted on by the United States Catholic bishops on June 13, include increased roles for lay experts in investigations and mandatory reporting of any allegation to the metropolitan archbishop.


The audience was vocal throughout the event, and Cavadini’s criticism of the latter rule provoked enthusiastic applause.


Though clergy sex abuse was the titular dilemma in this “ND Perspectives: The Catholic Church in Crisis” event, the panelists agreed that this challenging time should also provide the impetus to address other problems, from clericalism to the decline in young-adult churchgoers.


For more analysis on the crisis in the Church, check out our feature story on the subject from our spring 2019 issue.


Sarah Cahalan is an associate editor of this magazine.