Johann Hari does a thought experiment:

Imagine I discovered there was a paedophile ring running our crèche, and the Editor issued a stern order that it should be investigated internally with "the strictest secrecy". Imagine he merely shuffled the paedophiles to work in another crèche at another newspaper, and I agreed, and made the kids sign a pledge of secrecy. We would both – rightly – go to prison. Yet because the word "religion" is whispered, the rules change. Suddenly, otherwise good people who wouldn't dream of covering up a paedophile ring in their workplace think it would be an insult to them to follow one wherever it leads in their Church. They would find this behaviour unthinkable without the irrational barrier of faith standing between them and reality.

Yes, I understand some people feel sad when they see a figure they were taught as a child to revere – whether Prophet or Pope – being subjected to rational examination, or mockery, or criminal investigation. But everyone has ideas they hold precious. Only you, the religious, demand to be protected from debate or scrutiny that might discomfort you. The fact you believe an invisible supernatural being approves of – or even commands – your behaviour doesn't mean it deserves more respect, or sensitive handling. It means it deserves less. If you base your behaviour on such a preposterous fantasy, you should expect to be checked by criticism and mockery. You need it.

Chill, Johann. I'm religious. I demand to be protected from no debate. And many of us who believe are indeed saying - and have been saying for a long, long time - that using religious authority to cover up child abuse is evil, insupportable, corrupt and wrong. But if the church hierarchy does not understand this, if it does not instigate root and branch reform, if it uses this occasion to double down further, then it will deserve the secular assault that will come.

I fear the Church's hierarchy is as over now as the Soviet hierarchy was in the 1980s. But, unlike the lie of Communism, the truth of the Gospels remains. So when will we Catholics have our velvet revolution? When will we finally stand up and deliver our church from the evil that now controls it? And when will this farce of an establishment finally crumble into the dust it deserves?

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