SNAP doesn't see much changing with the College of Cardinals

(For Immediate Release August 28, 2022) 


With the installation of 20 new members into the College of Cardinals on August 27, Pope Francis will boost the total number of cardinal electors to 132, and the College will have 229 members. Our concern with this body is the ongoing clergy sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church, and what the composition of the College bodes for future action to abate that insidious problem.

According to BishopAccountability, 7,000 diocesan and order priests have been accused of abuse in the United States, and 20,000 victims have courageously stepped forward. These numbers represent a fraction of the total number of accused clerics, because of deliberate cover-up on the part of the Church, and because many victims are still sitting in silence.  Some childhood sex abuse victims will never tell anyone. Those who do generally make an outcry decades after the assaults. The average age for a survivor to come forward is 52. As time marches on, we will likely see more victims from the 1990s and 2000s, as they are finally ready to speak out.

Yet the average age of the entire College is 78, and the cardinal electors have an average age of 72. Just nine electors are under the age of 60, the youngest one 48 years old. Approximately three-quarters of the electors are 70 and older. Almost 41% of the total college population is over 80. These are largely men who were well into their careers when the Boston Globe broke its SPOTLIGHT exposé on the cover-up of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston. That means, we suspect, that they are unlikely to take a proactive approach to change the culture within the Church that has perpetuated the scandal.

Moreover, while the scope of clergy sexual abuse is international, the global reaction to the scandal has been uneven. The United States, Australia, Canada, and Ireland have been greatly impacted, while the rest of the world is only beginning to respond, most recently Europe.  Yet the United States and Canada are only represented by 10% of the Cardinal electors. 52 of the 132 electors are from Europe. Again, the majority of the College members have not experienced the devastating effects of lawsuits and government investigations into Catholic clergy sexual abuse. We fear that this is likely to mean that the cardinals will not use their power to effect meaningful change on the issue. 

We would also note while there are cardinals who are liberal on doctrine and those who are conservative, neither side has been noticeably better on the issue of clergy sexual abuse. Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the liberal-leaning leader of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, was horrific. Cardinal Raymond Burke, the conservative leader of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, was no better.

However, we believe that something both the liberals and conservatives in this body, steeped in the old culture of abuse and cover-up, have in common is a desire to avoid consequences for their roles in perpetuating the scandal. Recently, Pope Francis "cleared" Cardinal Marc Ouellet of the abuse accusations made against him, which also called into question the way the Cardinal handled other cases of abuse. It seems obvious to us that the body as a whole will seek to perpetuate the old model so that they too will be protected from the consequences of their actions.

In short, we are not optimistic that the College of Cardinals will use its power to make a meaningful impact on the ongoing scandal of clergy sexual abuse. However, we would be overjoyed to discover that we are wrong in this perception.


CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is


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  • Michael McDonnell
    published this page in Official SNAP Media Statements 2022-08-28 19:13:43 -0500

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