Confession

Painful question for Catholic bishops: Why assume that parishes will decline and die?

Painful question for Catholic bishops: Why assume that parishes will decline and die?

The headlines keep appearing in Catholic newspapers, before the news migrates into the real-estate coverage in mainstream media.

The bottom line is the bottom line. Catholic shepherds decide that they have to pull the plug and close parishes in which declining and aging flocks of believers have struggled to pay their bills. These aging sanctuaries are often located on valuable pieces of urban real estate.

Some parishes vanish. Others are merged into one facility to make efficient use of space, as well as the crowded schedules of a steadily declining number of priests.

"On one level, it makes sense. You close a parish -- I understand that many parishes are in financial trouble -- and then in a few years you get to tear it down and someone moves in and builds condos," said Philip F. Lawler, editor of Catholic World News, an independent online news service.

"The questions that I think we have to ask our bishops are, 'Why is defeat inevitable? Why do we assume that all of these parishes are going to decline and close? … What if you put someone in there who offered a brand of Catholic faith that had some evangelical zeal? What if we still believed that Catholic churches could grow?' "

Do the math, he said. Growing urban flocks would need places to worship. But once these historic Catholic sanctuaries are gone -- they're gone. The cost of building replacements would be astronomical.

All of these real-estate decisions, he said, hinge on management assumptions that are profoundly spiritual.

Once upon a time, "American cities are dotted with magnificent church structures, built with the nickels and dimes that hard-pressed immigrant families could barely afford to donate," wrote Lawler, in his new book, "The Smoke of Satan," addressing several interlinking scandals in Catholic life. "Today the affluent grandchildren of those immigrants are unwilling to keep current with the parish fuel bills and, more to the point, to encourage their sons to consider a life of priestly ministry."

Yes, there are cases in which parishes serving different ethnic groups were built within blocks of each other. But Lawler is convinced that the typical church that is being closed and sold is "located in a comfortable, populous neighborhood, with no other Catholic church particularly close at hand and no special reason why the community that supported a thriving parish in 1960 cannot maintain the same parish now. … No reason, that is, except the decline of the Catholic faith. Parishes close because Catholic families don't care enough about the faith to keep them open."

A comic book attempt to get inside the head of Pope Francis

A comic book attempt to get inside the head of Pope Francis

The grand Basilica of San Jose de Flores usually inspires visitors to gaze up at its Corinthian pillars and soaring 19th century Italianate clock tower.

This landmark in Buenos Aires played a strategic role in the life of a young Argentinian named Jorge Bergoglio. In a new book entitled "The Life of Pope Francis," he is shown shielding his eyes as he stands, stunned, in front of the sanctuary in 1953. His simple exclamation: "Dios mio," or "My God!"

Since this is a comic book, readers are told what Bergoglio was thinking. If this one moment is worth two giant images in a 22-page book, then the author has to show why it's so important.

"My goal is to focus on a few key events that made a person who are, on the forces that shaped them, not just on what they accomplished in some adult role on world stage," said author Michael Frizell, a creative writer who works in adult education at Missouri State University.

"I prefer to write about the personal, quieter scenes in a person's life. … It's especially hard to capture that when you're trying to describe a religious experience."

This private "Dios mio!" moment matters because whatever happened drove Bergoglio inside the church and into a Confession booth. This revelation changed his life.

In comic-book language that sounds like this, framed in thought boxes: "I ... don't quite know what happened. I felt like someone grabbed me from inside … and took me to the confessional. It was on that day that I knew my destiny was preordained."

Father Paul Scalia keeps funeral focus on Jesus of Nazareth and prayers for his father, a sinner

Father Paul Scalia keeps funeral focus on Jesus of Nazareth and prayers for his father, a sinner

Catholics who faithfully go to Confession are unusual these days, with one study linked to Georgetown University noting that a mere 2 percent of American Catholics "regularly" confess their sins to a priest. 

Local odds being what they were, Father Paul Scalia of Arlington, Va., once learned that he had come very close to facing one faithful Catholic whose confession would have -- literally -- hit close to home. That Saturday evening he heard a unique complaint from his father, Justice Antonin Scalia. 

The issue "was not that I'd been hearing confessions, but that he'd found himself in my confessional line. And he quickly departed it," said Father Scalia, during his father's nearly two-hour funeral Mass (video here). "As he put it later, 'Like heck if I'm confessing to you!' The feeling was mutual." 

This anecdote drew laughter in the massive Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. But even this personal story was part of the priest's focus on eternal issues, rather than details of the life and lengthy U.S. Supreme Court career of his famous father.

After all, Antonin Scalia had made his feelings crystal clear -- writing to the Presbyterian minister who performed the 1998 funeral of Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. -- that funerals should contain real sermons, not touchy-feely eulogies. 

Cohabitation, Confession, Communion

For generations, people in pews knew what to call it when folks "shacked up" before marriage -- "living in sin." "Sin" is a harder word to use, today.

The Catholic archbishop of Santa Fe, N.M., recently raised eyebrows with a mere letter reminding his flock that cohabitation is a grave sin that Catholics must take to confession or there will be eternal consequences. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan's priests read his sobering words from their pulpits on April 3, the fourth Sunday of Lent -- the penitential season before Easter.

Those who cohabit, stressed Sheehan, are "objectively living in a state of mortal sin and may not receive Holy Communion. They are in great spiritual danger. At the best ... they are ignorant of God's plan for man and woman. At the worst, they are contemptuous of God's commandments and His sacraments. ...

"Often their plea is that they 'cannot afford a church wedding' i.e. the external trappings, or that 'what difference does a piece of paper make?' -- as if a sacramental covenant is nothing more than a piece of paper! Such statements show religious ignorance, or a lack of faith and awareness of the evil of sin."

In addition to forbidding known cohabiters from receiving Communion, Sheehan urged priests to avoid public scandal by refusing to commission them to serve Communion. After all, he said, "one commits the sin of sacrilege by administering a Sacrament in the state of mortal sin."

Also, priests should prevent those who cohabitate from serving as godparents for baptisms and confirmations, since the documents for these rites say it's "critical for the sponsor to be a practicing Catholic." How, Sheehan added, "can anyone be seriously called a practicing Catholic who is not able to receive the sacraments because they are living in sin?"

This latest Communion controversy is not taking place in a vacuum. American bishops continue to debate whether or not to deny Holy Communion to Catholic politicians who reject church teachings on hot-button issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

At the same time, Catholic leaders are making special efforts -- especially during Lent -- to draw Catholics back to confession or, as it is now known, the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. After all, a 2008 study at Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate found that 45 percent of American Catholics say they never go to confession and 12 percent say they go once a year. A generation or two after many Catholics lined up for confession on a weekly or monthly basis, a mere 2 percent say they participate in this sacrament once a month or more.

This is the context for Sheehan's letter, which raised additional issues central to the day-to-day lives of thousands of priests, parents and parish leaders. How should priests handle cohabitating couples that seek premarital counseling? Can these couples attend "Pre-Cana" programs for the engaged? How do priests convince these Catholics to seek forgiveness when they don't believe they are sinning?

Good luck with that, said commentator Heidi Schlumpf of the National Catholic Reporter. She gave Sheehan's letter a quick thumbs down, calling it a mere attempt to fire up traditionalists.

"I'm struck how un-persuasive this letter is," she wrote, online. "But then I wonder if that is its purpose. It seems Sheehan has no real interest in persuading or teaching, but rather only punishing those who disagree with him. Oh, and making those who already agree with him happy for 'laying down the law.' "

Father John Zuhlsdorf, author of the popular "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" weblog, stressed that the Santa Fe statement was blunt, but that silence and timidity would be even worse. The key, he said, is that Archbishop Sheehan dared to defend church teachings to the Catholics who are under this care.

"In this age of 'I'm OK, you're OK,' a bishop risks being called mean and uncompassionate if he does anything other than remain silent or wring his hands," said Zuhlsdorf, a former Lutheran who is completing his doctorate at the Patristic Institute "Augustinianum" in Rome.

"So how do you defend doctrines that many people think are offensive without committing what many people believe is the ultimate sin, which is offending people? ... Yet this is what bishops are supposed to do -- defend the teachings of the church. All of them. The whole package."

Getting iConfession wrong

For generations, Catholics carried these simple leaflets inside their handbags or wallets, short texts topped with titles such as "A Guide For Confession" or "A Personal Examination of the Conscience." The believer would be reminded: "Be truly sorry for your sins. The essential act of penance, on the part of the penitent, is contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of the sin committed, together with a resolution not to commit it again, out of the love one has for God and which is reborn with repentance."

These paper guides also offer lists of questions to prick the conscience, such as, "Have I denied my faith?", "Have I neglected prayer?" or "Was I impatient, angry, envious, proud, jealous, revengeful, lazy?" If it had been a long time since a previous confession, the penitent would be reminded, "If you need help ... simply ask the priest and he will help you by 'walking' you through the steps."

That was then.

In recent weeks waves of Catholics, along with curious members of other flocks, have downloaded a new "Confession" app for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices that combines private journaling, spiritual readings and traditional pre-confession leaflets into one password-protected digital package. Why carry scribbled notes into confession when for $1.99 one can work through the rite while being bathed in the cool blue glow that is the symbol of the social-networking age?

Scribes in newsrooms around the world sprang into action.

"Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been 300 tweets since my last confession," noted CNN.

In London, The Times opened its story by claiming: "Roman Catholic bishops have approved a new iPhone and iPad app that allows users to make confession with a virtual 'priest' over the Internet."

The Economic Times report was even more blunt. The headline noted, "No time to visit church? Confess via iPhone." Then the opening lines went further still, stating: "Users of iPhone can now perform contrition and other religious rituals without visiting church, thanks to a new online application."

The problem is that these statements were just plain wrong. There is no such thing as a "virtual" priest or a "virtual" sacrament. How could electronic devices allow believers to "perform ... other religious rituals"?

"I am all for anything that gets people to go to confession," noted Father John Zuhlsdorf, at his popular "What Does the Prayer Really Say?" website. "But let's be clear about something: The iPhone app is for preparing to go to confession. It is not a substitute for going to confession."

Nevertheless, the cracked headlines rolled on with the Catholic League expressing outrage about new stinkers, such as, "Can't Make it to Confession? There's an App for That," "New, Church-Approved iPhone Offers Confession On the Go" and "Bless Me iPhone for I Have Sinned."

It was true that the Confession app had been developed with the direct help of Catholic priests and, yes, its theological content earned an imprimatur from Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, leader of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind.

But after the barrage of inaccurate headlines, Vatican officials finally decided that a response was required.

It is true that "in a world in which many people use computer support for reading and reflection" Catholics may now find that "digital technology can be useful in the preparation for confession," noted Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office. However, he added, it is "essential to understand that the sacrament of penance requires a personal dialogue between the penitent and the confessor in order for absolution to be given.

"This ... cannot be replaced by any computer application such as the iPhone."

This statement produced more headlines. A CBS headline offering was typical -- "Vatican: No, You Can't Confess to Your iPhone." Of course, the app's creators never made that claim in the first place.

The story had come full circle.

Thus, noted Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, this new app "is not a session with a virtual priest who restores your virtue with a penance of three Hail Mary's and three extra gigabytes of memory. ... You still have to go into the real confessional at church to get absolution, and, hopefully, your priest won't be annoyed that you're reading your sins off of a little screen and, maybe, peeking at a football game or shopping site once in awhile."

Archbishop meets the press (year 21)

In most news reports, Mother Teresa seemed like such a nice, quiet holy woman. But as any reporter who actually interviewed her quickly learned, Calcutta's "saint of the gutters" could be remarkably blunt. She once noted -- in a half-serious jest -- that she would rather bath a leper than meet the press.

"Mother was not known for the ambiguity of her feelings," noted Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, at a recent gathering of journalists at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. "A lot of people in the church, especially those who practice their faith in an active and regular manner, would agree with what she meant -- because they feel the same way."

The archbishop stressed that he does not feel that way, especially when working with journalists who have acquired the knowledge and skills needed to do accurate, critical coverage of religion. However, he is convinced that many religious believers simply do not appreciate the vital role that journalists are supposed to play in public life.

"Journalism is a vocation, not a job," said Chaput. "Pursued properly, journalism should enjoy the same dignity as the law or medicine because the service that journalists perform is equally important to a healthy society. I really believe that. You form people. You form the way they think and the way they live their lives. So journalists have a duty to serve the truth and the common good."

That's the good news. I have heard Chaput make that point more than once during the quarter of a century since I first met him, while he was a Capuchin-Franciscan priest in urban Denver and I was a newcomer on the local religion beat.

Chaput was already interested in mass media, popular culture and the changing landscape of American religion and those interests only deepened when, in 1988, he was ordained Bishop of Rapid City, S.D. Soon after he returned to Denver as archbishop, in 1997, he organized a conference on the cultural and religious implications of the Internet.

These were precisely the kinds of topics that I wanted to emphasize when -- 21 years ago this week -- I began writing this column for Scripps Howard. Our interests also overlapped when I began teaching about religion and mass media, first in a Denver seminary and then in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Our paths have been crossing ever since.

When it comes to journalism, Chaput knows the good news and the bad news.

The bad news, he said, is that far too many journalists who cover religion events have no idea what they are doing. They may be talented and intelligent, but when it comes to religion they just don't get it.

"I don’t expect journalists who track the church to agree with everything she teaches. But I do think reporters should have a working knowledge of her traditions and teachings," he said. "I do think editors should have the basic Catholic vocabulary needed to grasp what we’re talking about and why we’re talking about it."

Consider, for example, the media storms surrounding discussions of Holy Communion and the sacramental status of Catholic politicians who disagree with their church's doctrines on abortion, marriage and similar issues. In his book "Render Unto Caesar," Chaput argued that it's the "political duty" of Catholics to "know their faith and to think and act like faithful Catholics all the time" -- even those who work inside the Washington Beltway.

Alas, the journalists think they are writing about the rights of politicians, while some Catholic bishops want to discuss the salvation and, yes, damnation of souls. If journalists insist on describing this conflict in strictly political terms, he said, there is no way the public will ever understand what is happening.

"No one ever has a right to the Eucharist, and the vanity or hurt feelings of an individual Catholic governor or senator or even vice president does not take priority over the faith of the believing community," said Chaput. Thus, while journalists are under "no obligation to believe what the church teaches ... they certainly do have the obligation to understand, respect and accurately recount how she understands herself, and especially how she teaches and why she teaches" these doctrines.

Too often, said the archbishop, inaccurate news reports about this controversy have left the impression that "access to Holy Communion ... is like having bar privileges at the Elks Club."

Searching for Catholic sins

One tough challenge that Catholic shepherds face, Pope Benedict XVI said this past Lent, is that their flocks live in an age "in which the loss of the sense of sin is unfortunately becoming increasingly more widespread."

The pope has consistently described the forces at work as "pluralism," "relativism" and "secularism."

"Where God is excluded from the public forum the sense of offence against God -- the true sense of sin -- dissipates, just as when the absolute value of moral norms is relativized the categories of good or evil vanish, along with individual responsibility," he told a group of Canadian bishops, early in his papacy.

"Yet the human need to acknowledge and confront sin in fact never goes away. ... As St. John tells us: 'If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.' "

But there's a problem at pew level. Many American Catholics who regularly attend Mass simply do not agree with their church when it comes time to say what is sinful and what is not. In fact, according to a recent survey by Ellison Research in Phoenix, if the pope wanted to find large numbers of believers who share his views on sin he should spend more time with evangelical Protestants.

For example, 100 percent of evangelicals polled said adultery is sinful, while 82 percent of the active Catholics agreed. On other issues, 96 percent of evangelicals said racism is sin, compared to 79 percent of Catholics. Sex before marriage? That's sin, said 92 percent of the evangelicals, while only 47 percent of Catholics agreed.

On one of the hottest of hot-button issues, 94 percent of evangelicals said it's sinful to have an abortion, compared with 74 percent of American Catholics. And what about homosexual acts? Among evangelicals, 93 percent called this sin, as opposed to 49 percent of the Catholics.

The Catholics turned the tables when asked if it's sinful not to attend "religious worship services on a regular basis," with 39 percent saying this is sin, compared to 33 percent of the evangelicals.

In this survey, a Catholic was defined as "someone who attends Mass at a Catholic parish at least once a month or more," said Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research. The goal was to focus on the beliefs of active members, as opposed to ex-Catholics and "cultural Catholics" who rarely, or never, go to Mass.

The researchers also collected data on church-attending Protestants and this group -- mixing mainline Protestants and those in conservative churches -- tended to give answers that were more conservative than those from by Catholics, but more liberal than those given by evangelicals. Sellers said his team sifted evangelicals out of the larger Protestant pool by asking participants to affirm or question basic doctrinal statements, such as, "The Bible is the written word of God and is totally accurate in all that it teaches" and "Eternal salvation is possible through God's grace alone."

The split between Catholics and evangelicals jumped out of the statistics.

"It's hard to talk about what could have caused this without doing in-depth research that would let us move beyond speculation," he said. "But you can't look at these numbers without asking: Why are American evangelicals more likely to have a Catholic approach to sin than American Catholics?"

It's clear that most Americans are operating with definitions of sin that are highly personal and constantly evolving, said Sellers. These beliefs are linked to faith, morality, worship and the Bible, but are also affected by trends in media, education and politics. For example, 94 percent of political conservatives believe there is such a thing as sin, compared to 89 percent of political moderates and 77 percent of liberals.

The declining numbers on certain sins would have been even more striking if the Ellison researchers hadn't added a strategic word to its survey. The study defined "sin" as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective."

Note that linguistic cushion -- "almost."

"We had to put that 'almost' in there," said Sellers. "Most Americans do not believe in absolute truths, these days. So if you present them with a statement that contains an absolute truth, people are immediately going to start challenging you and looking for some wiggle room. ... They just can't deal with absolute statements and that messes up your survey."

One thing about Lent

Faithful fans of ESPN's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" know that former NFL lineman Mike Golic takes great pleasure in skewering his urbane shrimp of a partner, Mike Greenberg.

But in recent weeks, the sarcastic jabs by the University of Notre Dame graduate began drawing an ominous canned response from the producers -- a doomsday choir chanting "Golic's going to hell."

You see, Golic vowed to make a big sacrifice this year for Lent, the 40-day penitential season that precedes Easter. When he was in Catholic school, he told listeners, he was taught to give up one thing during Lent. This time around, Golic elected -- rather than donuts or another great pleasure -- to give up making fun of "Greeny."

When most people think of Lent, this "giving up one thing" concept is the one thing that comes to mind, even for many of America's 62 million Catholics. Now, many Protestants have adopted the same practice. This is, however, a modern innovation that has little or nothing to do with ancient Lenten traditions, in the West or the East.

"There are Catholics who don't practice their faith and they may not be up on what it really means to observe Lent," said Jimmy Akin, director of apologetics and evangelization for the Catholic Answers (Catholic.com) website. "But active Catholics know there is supposed to be real fasting and abstinence involved in Lent.

"The question is whether they want to do more, to add something extra. That is what the 'one thing' was supposed to be about."

Lenten traditions have evolved through the ages. For centuries, Catholics kept a strict fast in which they ate only one true meal a day, with no meat or fish. Over time, regulations were eased to allow small meals at two other times during the day.

Today, Catholics are supposed to observe a strict fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday at the start of Lent and Good Friday at the end. In most parishes they are urged to avoid meat on Fridays. However, Lenten guidelines have been eased so much in recent decades that even dedicated Catholics may become confused. Akin tries to cover the basics online in what he calls his "Annual Lent Fight" roundup.

It's impossible to know how or when the idea of "giving up one thing" came to dominate the Lenten season, he said. The roots of the tradition may date back to the sixth century and the influential monastic Rule of St. Benedict, which added a wrinkle to the usual Lenten guidelines.

"During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God ... something above his prescribed measure," states the Rule. "Namely, let him withdraw from his body somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the gladness of spiritual desire await holy Easter."

The key, Akin explained, is that this was supposed to be an extra sacrifice. The Rule even tells the monks to seek the approval of their spiritual fathers before taking on an extra discipline, so as not to be tempted by pride.

"It's understandable that when you have a season in which you're supposed to do something -- like penance -- there will always be people who want to do more. They will want to observe both the letter and the spirit of the law," said Akin. "At the same time, you're going to have people who want to go in the opposite direction. They will want to find a way to do the bare minimum, to set the bar as low as possible."

It's also possible, he said, that the "give up one thing" tradition grew out of another understandable practice. Parents and Catholic teachers have long urged small children -- who cannot keep a true fast for health reasons -- to do what they can during Lent by surrendering something symbolic, such as candy or a favorite television show.

But if grownups stop practicing the true Lenten disciplines, then the "one thing" standard is what remains.

"You can have a good example set at home and then undermined at school or it can happen the other way around," said Akin. "Our children need to see the faith lived out at home and the school and in the parish. You need consistency."

Old sins in confession

St. Peter Damian was a man with a mission.

The church reformer was appalled by the sexual immorality of his fellow clergy and their superiors, who often refused to warn the faithful and allowed the guilty to go unpunished. He condemned all sexual immorality, but especially the priests who abused boys after hearing their confessions.

Damian poured his concerns into a volume called the Book of Gomorrah, which ended with an appeal to Pope Leo IX for reform.

The year was 1051. The pope praised Damian, but declined to take decisive action. A later pope tried to suppress the book.

"Anyone who thinks the problems the church has today are new just doesn't know history," said psychotherapist A.W. Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who has served as an expert witness in more than 200 cases of clergy sexual abuse. "There has always been a temptation to try to protect the image of the church, which usually means covering up scandals involving priests and bishops."

Another wave of nasty headlines hit this week, when the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to a $60-million settlement with 45 victims. Plaintiffs continue to demand that Cardinal Roger M. Mahony release the records of the priests, including those left in ministry after parishioners complained about inappropriate behavior with minors.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram won a 19-month legal battle to obtain court records that included personnel files of seven priests in the Fort Worth diocese. In at least one case, church investigators decided a priest had sexually exploited an 18-year-old boy who came to him for confession.

Outsiders may struggle to understand how easy it is for corrupt priests to turn the privacy of the Sacrament of Penance into an opportunity to solicit sexual relationships with vulnerable women, men and children, said Sipe, co-author, with Father Thomas Doyle and former priest Patrick Wall, of the book "Sex, Priests and Secret Codes." Counselors of all kinds face similar, but not the same, temptations.

"The priest makes contact in the confessional. He hears the most intimate, personal problems of his people, problems that are often of a sexual nature," said Sipe. "It's easy for him to perceive that he is dealing with a troubled boy, a troubled girl or troubled men and women. Believe me, you hear literally everything in confession.

"So a bad priest can listen and listen and then, when the timing is right, he says, 'Why don't you come see me and we can talk this over face to face. I want to help.' "

Everything that happens in the Sacrament of Penance is secret. The priest is never, under any conditions, supposed to divulge what someone says in confession.

Penitents are not covered by the same holy obligation, but, according to Sipe, Doyle and Wall, they can get caught in a "canonical Catch-22" because the priest's status makes the relationship so unbalanced. Many victims are intimidated by the priest's power to pronounce and withhold absolution of sins. They also know that if they accuse a priest, they could be accused of false denunciation and excommunicated.

This was especially true "in the old days, the '50s and '60s, when Catholics were so conditioned to go to confession," said Doyle. "People lined up week after week and this created a zone of secrecy that the priest controlled. It gave bad priests a lot of room in which to operate."

However, the number of American Catholics going to confession has plummeted in recent decades. The good news is that this has eliminated some opportunities for a few bad priests to find victims. The bad news is that this decline -- whatever the cause -- has weakened the spiritual, sacramental bonds between all the good priests and the people they serve.

It's rare today, said Doyle, for Catholics to maintain an ongoing relationship with someone they consider to be their "spiritual father" in the faith.

"If anything positive has come out of these recent changes, it is that bad priests know that they simply cannot get away with some of the things they used to be able to get away with," he said. "Catholics are just being more careful and they are much more likely to speak out if they sense that something is going wrong. Some of that old trust has been lost."