"Father Forgive Me For I Have Sinned": Strategies of Apologia used by the Roman Catholic Church in Addressing the Sexual Abuse Crisis
The sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy has overwhelmed public media and has resulted in a barrage of criminal and civil lawsuits. Between October of 1985 and November of 2002, more than three-hundred and ninety-four media sources reported on allegations of sexual misconduct worldwide. The response by the hierarchy of the church has been defensive with little effort in expressing remorse. Researchers over the past decade have focused much attention on how organizations respond to crises involving allegations of wrongdoing, but little attention to the church as an organization remains under-researched. When an organization suffers such a crisis as did the Catholic Church regarding the sexual abuse of its members, the role of apology takes on various viewpoints. The questions posed for this research are: First, what strategies of apology did the Catholic Church use in addressing the sexual abuse by clergy and were the apologies issued apologies of regret or remorse. Secondly, I want to explore the impact the media has had on the church. Finally I want to explore the status of the church today with regard to legal issues and the effect the statute of limitations is having on the victims being compensated. The apologies issued on behalf of the Church were few and far between. Based on the analysis of articles from the Boston Globe, it appears that the Church apologized as more of regret than remorse. The silence and cover-up by leaders in the Church forced the hand of many victims to speak out about the abuse and confront the Church in the only way they would respond . . . in a court of law. Once the accusations became public, the media played a pivotal role in escalating the crisis, thereby, forcing the hand of the Church in addressing the abuse. Taking responsibility for the actions of clergy from the very beginning would have been the responsible thing for the Church to do.