Recent months have seen the row over the abuse of children by Catholic priests intensify, with the pope himself directly implicated in the cover-up. Kevin Devine analyses the social role of the Catholic church, and the circumstances which enabled these crimes to continue for so many years
"A scandal crying out to heaven." This is how dissident theologian Hans Küng described the widespread revelations of the physical and sexual abuse of children and adolescents by Catholic priests, nuns and brothers in the US, Germany, Ireland and other countries. That someone who remains a Catholic, despite repeated clashes with the authorities, can portray the situation facing the church like this gives an idea of the scale of the issue.