The real crisis in the US Catholic Church is not priestly paedophilia, but the failure of bishops to defend Church teaching, a senior American Jesuit has said.
In a hard-hitting speech, Fr Joseph Fessio said that at a time when the church needed leaders who were "prophets" the hierarchy was dominated by "managers" who were afraid to stand up for the Catholic faith.
The director of Ignatius Press traced the crisis back to the publication of the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed the Church’s traditional teaching on sexual morality.
Fr Fessio said: "Because Humanae Vitae was so counter to our culture, Pope Paul VI wanted bishops who were reconcilers and bishops who were healers. That’s a good thing. But the negative side was that he did not want bishops who were controversial or divisive. In this period of the Church’s history where there was a crisis of Catholic truth, bishops were appointed who had never really stood up to defend Catholic truth. These bishops were good, friendly and perhaps holy people. But it was a time when we needed prophets and we got managers. Unfortunately that approach continues today."
When the laity complained to Rome, Fr Fessio said, the bishops reacted defensively and "painted a false picture" of the state of seminaries and religious houses.
"Because of the rejection of Humanae Vitae in America, we got a culture of sexual promiscuity and homosexuality in the priesthood and religious life, and a culture of authority that tries to hide it and make things seem all right," he said.