Addressing the abuse crisis on a global scale must be high on the agenda for the next pope, along with renewing evangelism and reforming the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus of the Catholic Church, to decentralize power. That’s according to Rev. Thomas Rausch, a Jesuit theologian at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, who believes Americans might get serious consideration largely because they’ve done the most to troubleshoot sexual abuse.
“There’s just a sense that the Americans might have some skills and some ways of addressing some of these very real problems that the church is facing,” Rev. Rausch says. “The American church may have learned late [how to prevent and handle abuse cases], but it learned.”
On the other hand, American bishops come from a system that covered up abuse crimes and protected offending priests, according to Sally Vance-Trembath, a Santa Clara University theologian and former national vice president of Voice of the Faithful, a lay Catholic reform group. In that sense, she says, all American bishops come with baggage that could burden a pontificate, especially if more revelations of abuse and cover-up come to light.