Vatican’s wrong choice

For decades the Vatican turned a deaf ear to the sexual abuse of children by its clergy and to the social changes sweeping Western civilization. As a result, one-third of native-born U.S. Catholics have left the church over the past 30 years. The Milwaukee Catholic Herald reported last week that 38,000 Milwaukee Catholics have left the church in the past year alone.

Many of the remaining faithful oppose the church’s stance on issues such as birth control, stem cell research and LGBT rights. And many archdioceses, including Milwaukee’s, face possible bankruptcy over settlements in abuse cases.

But the church has learned nothing from its emptying pews and coffers. U.S. Catholic leaders have fought laws throughout the country, including a proposed measure in Wisconsin, to temporarily suspend statutes of limitation so that victims of pedophiles — all pedophiles, not just priests — can seek justice in civil court. Bishop Jerome Listecki, the newly named archibishop of Milwaukee, testified against the measure in October.

The church also has ratcheted up its political activism against same-sex marriage in an effort to attract evangelical Christians and disaffected Episcopalians into its dwindling fold. Californians Against Hate reported last week that “Catholics appear to be the new Mormons in the fight against same-sex marriage.” In the past, Mormons were the biggest supporters of anti-marriage campaigns. Now the Mormon Church seems to be backing off while Catholics are becoming increasingly involved.

The dioceses of Portland, Maine, gave $553,000 to overturn same-sex marriage in that state, even though they recently closed five churches. Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., has threatened to end its programs to feed the hungry if the city council passes a same-sex marriage bill.

The church’s priorities are clear. Saving money is more important than providing justice to victims of childhood predators. Denying legal protections to same-sex couples is preferable to maintaining houses of worship or helping indigents.

In this context, it’s obvious why the Vatican selected a hard-line activist like Listecki to head the Milwaukee archdiocese. But Listecki is a bad fit for a diverse, progressive urban center. His leadership will accelerate the hemorrhaging.

Catholics might be the new Mormons, but Wisconsin is not the new Utah.

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