Many people, including bishops, date and label the "Crisis in the Catholic Church" to Jan. 6, 2002 when The Boston Globe began publishing its series about sexual abuse of minors by priests and revealing the conspiracy of bishops in covering up crimes. That was the flash point of a worldwide scandal. The crisis it epitomizes is more profound.
The uncontrollable public exposure and sharp focus on clergy sex abuse shocked everyone, but the fact of a church and priesthood in crisis did not come as a surprise to the United States hierarchy. "It is clear that we are in some kind of a crisis of priestly ministry. The nature of the crisis is not at all that clear." Those were the words Daniel Pilarczyk archbishop of Cincinnati directed at his fellow bishops on June 14, 1986. He went on to provide a checklist of possibilities: "Is it a crisis of image? Is it a crisis of numbers? Is it a crisis of celibacy? -- change? -- lay ministries? -- prayer? -- secularism? -- confidence? It is probably all of these and perhaps other things as well. And we have to respond to the crisis."(1)