Next month, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will meet in general assembly in Baltimore. The bishops left their November meeting without any decisive action towards ensuring accountability for bishops. Since then, the American bishops have gone on retreat together – at Pope Francis’ request – and the leaders of national episcopal conferences have met in Rome for a summit on the problem of clerical abuse of minors. The global Church is catching up to the American Church in handling the abuse crisis. As odd as it may sound, that’s a good thing.
But here in the States, there is still a palpable sense of frustration and urgency. The bishops will have unfinished business to attend to in Baltimore.
Just after Easter, a delegation from the USCCB went to Rome to discuss the reform proposals that will be on the Baltimore docket. Cardinal DiNardo was not with the delegation because of ill health. The bishops don’t want a repeat of last November’s fiasco when votes on proposed reforms were canceled at the eleventh hour at Rome’s insistence.
One bishop told me that, while he expects the proposed reforms for bishops’ accountability to pass in June, if the conference can’t agree on a way forward, many bishops are already inclined to follow the lead of the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Boston in putting in place their own third-party reporting systems and accountability mechanisms. In other words, many bishops are done waiting for Rome and the conference.
The June meeting in Baltimore will also come almost exactly one year after news broke that Theodore McCarrick’s sexual misbehavior had resulted in settlements in two dioceses, and that charges of abusing a minor had come to light. It’s worth recalling that, if his misdeeds had “merely” included preying on seminarians and priests, he would almost certainly remain a Cardinal today.
McCarrick was laicized earlier this year, but many of the questions about his long career and rise to prominence remain unanswered. Last October, the Holy See announced that Pope Francis had ordered a “thorough study of the entire documentation present in the Archives of the Dicasteries and Offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.”
Whether the results of that study will ever be made public – and, if so, when – remains unclear. Last November, the U.S. bishops overwhelmingly voted against a resolution to ask the Holy Father to make the conclusions of the McCarrick study public. It was a low point of the November meeting.
Read more at The Catholic Thing.