I recently finished a book about the decline of Boston's Catholic culture entitled "The Faithful Departed." Boston was once the center of American Catholicism. It still is probably the most Catholic city in America, at least in nominal terms. But Boston was rocked hard by the clerical sexual abuse scandal and has not recovered.
The author of the book, Philip F. Lawler, looks at the scandal from a very conservative Catholic position (there was a Philip Lawyer who was the Constitution Party's Senate candidate in Massachusetts in 2000 --if they are the same persons, that may give some context to Lawler's views). Lawler buys into the "Lavender Mafia" explanation of the scandal. As a former altar boy and lector, I never really bought that explanation.
But Lawler also views the scandal (and the continuing slide of Catholicism) to the desire of the Catholic hierarchy of America to be liked by America's elites. I think he may be onto something here. The scandal was handled not as an affront to religious belief or a moral issue, but rather a PR problem. It was managed as a corporation might manage a product defect. But the Catholic faith is not a product or a commodity to be sold.
Yet, despite the long rumblings of the scandal, the church seemed most worried about how the scandal would effect the public image of the church.
So in the end, the Church is horribly damaged, Catholics disheartened and the approval the hierarchy sought is no where to be found.