Thursday, July 11, 2024


LINK to online version. Links to references added.

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, has written a book titled “The Truth About Clergy Sexual Abuse: Clarifying the Facts and Causes.”

Donohue does a good job at not letting the Catholic Church (“the Church”) off the hook, rightly criticizing its leadership all the way up to the popes.

However, Donohue also lays much of the blame on the media, lawyers, the culture, and particularly the sexual revolution.

Not that he isn’t right about how all of that contributed to the problem, but like many who have theorized about this mess, Donohue, for the most part, misses the mark.

I say “for the most part” because he bumps into it in a late chapter, but doesn’t see it as the root cause. I do. I shall explain.

The clergy sex abuse crisis, as it came to be known, began in the late 1960’s, peaked in the 70’s, and began to taper off in the 80’s.

Those years coincide with the greatest period of cultural revolution in modern times, so it’s easy to see why defenders like Donohue claim that the Church, at least in America, was swept up by the times.

However, such a view would hold: “As the World goes, so goes the Church.” And that’s not true. The truth is: “As the Church goes, so goes the World.” This is based in Christ’s own words “you are the light of the world, you are the salt of the earth.”

In other words, the Church has all the grace needed to “overcome the world” because Jesus has already done it. So it’s a slap in our Redeemer’s face to blame “the world,” the sexual revolution, the times, the culture, whatever.

1968 is the year most agree is when the aforesaid revolution exploded. So the Church cannot say “the world made me do it” because there was already a revolution happening in the Church since the close of Vatican II three years earlier in 1965 - as evidenced by the beginnings of a mass exodus of priests and nuns and the collapse in vocations which continues to this day.

Aside from what the Council promulgated, the real problem is what the Council created: an expectation of change. And nowhere was this expectation more fevered than the possibility of separating sex from progeny: artificial birth-control - specifically “the pill.”

Interestingly, birth-control, by order of both Pope John 23 and Paul 6, was not a topic on the table at the Council. A separate commission, the Birth Control Commission, had been instituted, first by John and then expanded by Paul, to address it.

For Pope Paul, the commission was a disaster. Its members voted 64-2 to permit married couples to contracept. I say “disaster” because the prohibition on contraception is something no pope or commission had or has the power to change. So what was Paul to do?

Well, he wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae. But HV did not once and for all condemn contraception as most Catholics think. Nope. The pope left it up to a vote and a future commission. Here’s what he wrote at the outset of the encyclical:

“…the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain…because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed…”

In fingering the fact that the commission was “not (in) complete agreement” (even though the vote was 64-2), the pope outright implied, whether he meant to or not, that the teaching could have changed had there been “complete agreement,” and more significantly: one day there might be.

Moreover, why would a pope establish a commission to study the issue if there was no possibility of change? So there was the expectation of change right from the start.

Donohue bumps into this inconvenient fact in Chapter 11: “…had there been no commission…there may have been some discontent but the convulsions that followed would have been avoided.” (By “convulsions,” Donohue is referring to the explosion of clergy sex abuse.)

It mattered not that the pope, in Humanae Vitae, went on to restate the unchangeable teaching of the Church on the matter, he had already let the horse out of the barn.

And that’s all the wild-eyed revolutionaries needed. The sexual revolution in the Church was off and running a whole year before Woodstock; and “the convulsions” - the “filth in the church,” as Pope Benedict labeled it - is exactly what followed.

Tim Rohr has resided in Guam since 1987. He has raised a family of 11 children, owned several businesses, and is active in local issues via his blog,, letters to local publications, and occasional public appearances. He may be contacted at   

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