For PBS, Tavis Smiley interviews Michael D'Antonio, author of the book Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal (NY: Thomas Dunne, 2013). Some points that D'Antonio makes in this valuable interview:
When Smiley keeps pushing him hard about what seems to set the Catholic church apart from other institutions, including religious ones, in which there is, after all, also abuse of children, D'Antonio replies:
In this case, I think there was all sorts of closing of ranks. The priests support each other. It's a problem of a clerical culture that's unique to Catholicism, I think.
And then he adds,
It's power. This is a story of power and the abuse of power. And it extends into the political realm, it extends into the legal realm. . . . . I think that's really the crux of the matter here. It's power and the abuse of power and corruption.
Throughout the interview, D'Antonio repeatedly notes how the acids of the abuse crisis--and, above all, its spectacular mishandling from the highest levels of the church down through the clerical ranks--have perceptibly eroded the moral standing of the Catholic church in the world today. He notes that faithful Catholics are leaving in droves due to what is the greatest crisis for the church since the Reformation: when he was in Ireland in the 1990s, you had trouble finding a seat for Sunday Mass. Now, churches in that country are over half-empty on Sundays. D'Antonio observes,
The decline of the Catholic church as a moral institution, as a beacon for people of faith and morality, is undeniable. In fact, now, I feel for the good priests, because people see someone in a collar, and they're automatically skeptical.
And at the bottom of it all, human lives overturned, disrupted, torn apart. D'Antonio points to the familial nature of the damage done by abusive priests:
The real violation here is in that relationship. This is a man who has the title "father," and it's very close to a family relationship, and the betrayal of the victim is very close to the betrayal within a family, and that's a profoundly traumatic thing.
I recommend this video as a resource to you. It's well worth a listen.