The Catholic news of 2018 was dominated almost from start to finish by the sex-abuse crisis. It was for angry and frustrated Catholics truly an annus horribilis.
Even before the U.S. bishops proved unable at their annual fall meeting in Baltimore to advance any solutions in the abuse crisis, Catholics in the United States had already spent months reading and hearing about the horrendous scandal surrounding former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, and the bombshell attorney general report on the sex-abuse scandal in Pennsylvania. Pope Francis also faced immense controversy throughout the year, with questions over his handling of the abuse crisis in Chile; the scandals surrounding some of his closest advisers, including Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras; and the disturbing accusations made by former papal nuncio to the United States Archbishop Carlo Viganò surrounding papal cover-up and negligence. As infuriating and dispiriting as these stories proved to be to Catholics across the globe, the immense scandal of 2018 nevertheless brought out into the light long-simmering problems in the Church and galvanized Catholics to support and encourage reform and holiness. Significant role models were provided with the canonizations of seven new saints in October by Pope Francis, including one of his predecessors, Pope St. Paul VI, whose landmark encyclical on the regulation of birth, Humanae Vitae, turned 50. In other major developments, the Irish people embraced the culture of death by voting for a referendum that legalized abortion for the first time in the country. U.S. President Donald Trump surprisingly held on to the U.S. Senate in the 2018 midterm elections but lost the U.S. House of Representatives, creating a divided government. That bitter and increasingly violent political divide was epitomized by the savage confirmation hearing for Trump’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The judge was confirmed by the Senate after surviving accusations of sexual assault dating back to when he was in high school.
As 2019 begins, it looks to be even angrier and more partisan.
Matthew E. Bunson is a Register senior editor.