The Reverend Father Rudy Kos trial

“The Kos case, together with others across the country and around the world, created a global crisis for the church. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in concert with the Vatican, adopted numerous reforms: “zero-tolerance” policies, stricter reporting requirements, mandates to swiftly remove offending priests, prohibitions against secret settlements of abuse complaints, safe-environment training for clergy and lay workers, outreach efforts to comfort victims and their families, annual audits to measure compliance with all of it…

But how effective have the changes been?

Is the rectory, the church outing, the classroom or school playground truly safe for children?

“I hope so,” Egerton said. “But I don’t have great confidence that it is.”

A chronic, growing shortage of priests provides temptation for seminaries to, in Egerton’s words, “take whatever slides in under the door.” In 1990, there were more than 52,000 Catholic priests in the United States. Last year, the official count was 35,815.

Meanwhile, the number of Catholics is swelling, thanks largely to booming Latino communities. Between 1990 and 2008, the church added 11 million worshippers to its rolls. (There are now roughly 70 million U.S. Catholics — more than a fifth of the nation’s population.)

With more parishioners to serve and fewer pastors to serve them, the church has increasingly turned to foreign-born priests, many from developing nations. A fourth of all U.S. priests, and a third of all new priests, now come from other countries — from India and Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Philippines, Nigeria and Kenya, Mexico and Colombia, Poland and Spain.”