When the clergy sexual abuse crisis exploded in the United States, most Vatican officials and European churchmen considered it an American problem. Then when Canada and Ireland experienced a similar crisis, it became an “English speaking” problem. Rather than seeing the crisis in the United States as a warning to put their own houses in order, too many European bishops continued with business as usual, believing that the crisis would not touch them.
Now that the crisis has arrived in Europe, what can the European bishops and the Vatican learn from the U.S. experience?
Begin with the context. The sexual abuse crisis did not start in Boston; it first came to public attention in the mid-1980s with a court case in Lafayette, La. The crisis was covered by the National Catholic Reporter long before the Boston Globe noticed it. It was in the mid-80s that insurance companies told bishops such cases would no longer be covered in their liability insurance. This should have gotten the attention of any prudent C.E.O.