The priest sex abuse crisis is turning out to be as much an impetus for conservative activism as for liberal protests and challenges to the church structure. The Washington Post (Oct. 13) reports that when the scandal broke last January with allegations of sex abuse cases and cover-up in the Boston Archdiocese “liberal groups were the first to organize and to speak out.
Now the opposing traditionalist camp is making itself heard — not only in the United States but also in Rome.” The policy of “zero tolerance” recently adopted by the U.S. bishops set the backlash in motion, with parishioners organizing to prevent the sudden removal of priests from parishes over allegations that are often decades old.
Such activism has been vindicated with the recent Vatican decision to change the bishops’ policy to give greater protection of the rights of priests. Across the nation, priest rights groups have formed, such as Voice of the Ordained in New York. A group known as Opus Bono Sacerdotii was founded to help pay the legal expenses of priests accused of sex crimes.
But the formation of groups such as the Massachusetts-based Faithful Voice also stems from the widespread conservative concern that liberal groups are using the scandal to press for innovations in church structure and teachings, such as lay governance of the church and allowing married and women priests. These groups are going on the offensive. They are vocal supporters of an effort to bar gay men from becoming priests; Vatican officials are currently circulating a draft policy to that effect.