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  • Writer's picturePodcast Librarian

Crisis: Coming to terms with the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal

The Premise (from Apple Podcasts):

A series about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church: its origins, characters, causes, and reforms. Host Karna Lozoya interviews bishops, survivors, reporters, lawyers, social workers, and many more, to help navigate a systemic problem that has plagued the modern church for at least 70 years.

Series or standalone:


Begin listening to:



Investigative reporting


Karna Lozoya, Executive Director of University Communications at the Catholic University of America. The Catholic Project is an initiative of CUA.

Sound/production quality:


Rating/age suitability:

Older teen/adult

CW: Sexual abuse; terms associated with that topic

Approximate length of episodes:

40 minutes

Curricular ties:

This could be incorporated into college-level classes that relate to religion, sociology, etc. It's probably not appropriate content- or appeal-wise for most high school classrooms.

Similar recommended pods:

Sadly, the theme of sexual abuse of children is getting to be familiar territory for investigative podcasts. See also: Believed; Where is George Gibney?

Podcast Librarian’s Review:

When I saw that there was a podcast released this past September about the widespread historical sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church, I was immediately interested--for several reasons, one of which being that I was raised Catholic (but am now a lapsed Catholic). However, I did not expect it to be one of my favorite listens of 2020. I also didn't expect it to be a fairly balanced report of the scandal, particularly when I saw that it was being produced by an organization called The Catholic Project (which is an initiative of the Catholic University of America). This investigative podcast is very well done, from the research, to the reporting, to the access to experts within and outside of the Catholic church. Rather than try to explain away or minimize the heinious actions of members of the clergy, the podcast is an honest look at how the Church failed many of its faithful over the years. Yes, there were the bad actors themselves performing the abuse, but there were also plenty of other people who knew or strongly suspected it but did nothing; many of those people were bishops to whom the abuse was reported.

Although the podcast is a series, you don't necessarily need to listen to each episode in order, or at all (though I recommend listening to the whole thing). One of the most interesting episodes was How Did We Get Here?, which explores the possible motives behind priests abusing children (mainly boys, to whom they had more access, particularly in the 60s, 70s, and 80s). Is the vow of celibacy the catalyst for sexual misconduct? I might have assumed that, but this podcast calls that theory into question and offers other possible explanations. The Catholic Project manages to make this podcast honest in telling about the priests and bishops who perpetrated or allowed the abuse; it doesn't hold back, as it shouldn't. However, it also focuses on the people who are working to help the victims heal from the trauma. It profiles several people and organizations who are assisting those affected by the abuse and working to make sure this doesn't happen again. The result is a podcast that is unflinching in its honesty and painful stories but also hopeful and uplifting.

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