The statement by all five bishops in Missouri is direct and blunt. So is their cover letter to Timothy L. Doherty. Doherty, bishop of Lafayette in Indiana, is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Their letter expresses open skepticism that whatever is being cooked up about sex and bishops by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, USCCB president, and Pope Francis will be of little if any help in restoration of trust among the laity.
The Missouri bishops blame the bishops, stating, “A culture of silence and cover-up by the hierarchy has brought the Church to this moment of crisis.”
The letter and statement were sent to Doherty October 6. They made it public November 12, after DiNardo announced the Vatican’s request to avoid voting on any proposals dealing with abuse by priests and bishops.
The U.S. bishops were meeting in Baltimore until the 15th, and adjourned without taking any action.
DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, according to reports, said that the three days of the USCCB fall assembly were “a sign of hope for me, not a disappointment.”
“What we have done here is a sign of hope for me, not a disappointment,” he’s quoted by reporters. “We leave this place committed to taking the strongest possible action at the earliest possible moment.”
This, as the Missourians pointed out earlier, is something of the problem. It will be too late and too little, summarizing a key assertion made by the Missouri bishops:
. . . We fear these measures will not be enough in either substance or timeliness to meet the demands that this pastoral crisis presents. . . . We are heartbroken over the abuse of power which is at the center of the sexual abuse scandal of our Church. . . . Transparency, accountability, and genuine reform in the way in which the Church handles issues of the abuse of power by the hierarchy are required.
The Vatican-delayed proposals the conference was slated to take up would have established a bishops’ code of conduct and created a body of independent investigators to take complaints against bishops.
Distrust of the hierarchy erupted over the McCarrick episode is the heart of it. “This breach of trust is already catastrophic,” the bishops wrote, “and endangers the very communion of the Church. . . . The very credibility of the Church has already been seriously damaged by a persistent silence and inaction over many decades.”
Some of the drifting reports from the now-concluded conference say the question of who investigates whom is a sticking point. A laity-led review panel for miscreant bishops met opposition. “We deserve to be evaluated by a jury of our peers,” one bishop is quoted. “There’s no one who understands a bishop more than another bishop.”
That works, until a public prosecutor steps in.
The Missouri bishops signing the letter are: Bishop James V. Johnston, diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph; Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and Auxiliary Bishop Mark S. Rivituso, Archdiocese of St. Louis; Bishop W. Shawn McKnight, Jefferson City; and Bishop Edward M. Rice, Springfield-Cape Girardeau.
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