Despite sincere efforts by many to curb the sexual abuse crisis and initiate reform in the institutional Church, the true disease has yet to be cured. A significant problem still lies in the work environments of the chanceries and tribunals in dioceses throughout the country.
From my own experience of working in a Tribunal, and in recent conversations with Tribunal and Chancery workers in multiple dioceses, there emerges a consistent narrative of toxic work environments characterized by needless secrecy, dismissive attitudes toward lay employees, a lack of collegiality between lay workers and the ordained, an unspoken ordinance against expressing a contrary opinion to policies and decisions made by a bishop, and many other complaints of incompetent leadership and management problems.
Admittedly, not every diocese in the U.S. operates under the specter of incompetence and indifference, but the clergy sexual abuse crisis that broke in 2002 in Boston, the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, the recently published McCarrick Report, and most recently the mismanagement of Cardinal Wuerl in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., did not come from a vacuum. As we examine these cases, it is easy and very tempting to cast blame and place oneself above the poor choices of prelates who should have known better. But did they know better?