Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo has issued a strongly worded statement addressing the “grievous moral failure” in the Church revealed by the scandal surrounding former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In a statement released today, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said the accusations against Archbishop McCarrick have caused “anger, sadness, and shame” for American bishops, himself included.
The statement comes after it was announced that Pope Francis had accepted McCarrick’s resignation as a cardinal, and assigned him to live in “seclusion, prayer, and penance” pending the outcome of a canonical process.
Addressing both the accusations against McCarrick and the fact that they went publicly undisclosed for decades, Cardinal DiNardo said that great harm had been done, and that there had been “grave moral failures of judgment” by Church leaders.
“These failures raise serious questions,” DiNardo’s statement said. “Why weren’t these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to Church officials? Why wasn’t this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?”
DiNardo said that the specific charges made against Archbishop McCarrick would be dealt with by the Holy See through a canonical process, where he “will rightly face judgment,” but that clear steps needed to be taken by the American Church as well.
To this end, DiNardo announced that he had convened the USCCB’s Executive Committee to discuss how the American bishops could best respond to the still unfolding scandal. The meeting was the first of several that will take place in the coming months, including at the Conference’s Administrative Committee meeting in September and the General Assembly in November.
Cardinal DiNardo stressed that, while the work of the Conference would necessarily take time, there were several crucial points for immediate action, beginning with an encouragement for every bishop to stand ready to respond with “compassion and justice” to anyone coming forward with an allegation of sexual abuse or harassment.
At the same time, the cardinal urged all victims of sexual assault or harassment, by anyone in the Church, to come forward and, if the allegations concern a civil crime, to notify local law enforcement as well.
Cardinal DiNardo pledged that the USCCB would do everything in its power to respond to the allegations against McCarrick, and if necessary encourage others to do the same.
“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the Conference will advocate with those who do have the authority.”
“One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.”
The statement, which was issued to all Catholic bishops in the United States, ends by acknowledging that a “spiritual conversion” is needed as U.S. bishops seek to renew their relationship among each other and with God.
In recent weeks, many bishops, archbishops, and cardinals have been the subject of pointed questions about the handling of allegations made against McCarrick, over a period of years.
“Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality,” DiNardo concluded. “The way forward must involve learning from past sins.”