Millennial Catholics Respond to Latest Abuse Revelations


The Catholic Church continues to stagger in the wake of sexual abuse revelations that occured in Pennsylvania, with a grand jury finding over 1,000 victims. The crimes stretch over a 70 year period and involved over 300 priests. Pope Francis is accused of having knowledge of transgressions by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and failing to take proper action. The Pope’s opponents have called for his resignation.

Emerging generations are wrapped up in the crisis. Commonweal chose to focus specifically on the response of Millennials and their view of the scandal.

Robert Christian reports:

There is despair. Some young people are certainly experiencing a spiritual or existential crisis, as they try to come to grips with the evil that people who are charged with emulating Jesus Christ are capable of inflicting. Those of us with young children who are resolved to stay in the church are left wondering how we can possibly keep our children Catholic as they grow up. Those with older children are scrambling to figure out what they could possibly say to them. How can you explain something like this when it leaves you speechless?

Among millennial Catholics, there seems to be a strong sense that this must be a turning point, that this must mark the beginning of a new era of transparency and accountability. Calls for reform are being articulated by young Catholics with all different types of worldviews and backgrounds. In the highly polarized U.S. church, where partisan affiliation and political ideology often matter more than the demands of the faith, this deserves attention.

Christian adds:

The millennial Catholics who are carefully watching the responses of church hierarchy have defied the “rise of nones,” the rapid abandonment of organized religion among Americans during recent decades. They show up to Mass because they care; their faith is not merely a cultural inheritance, but is in many ways chosen. They know the status quo must change. There is a need for prayer, but also action. Maintaining what little credibility the church has among millennials depends on it.  

Christian also notes that Millennial Catholics are seeking priests who share life with their parishioners, as opposed to serving only as religious bureaucrats. They want the church to reform and to hold transgressors to account. They also want to offer a faithful witness in their daily lives.

Millennials look for integrity, authenticity, gentleness, and mentoring ability as primary attributes of those they choose to follow. Many Millennial Catholics will remain faithful to the Church. But they will need leaders who are committed to reform, who will change themselves as they invite the people to change with them.