U.S. Bishops Grapple with Abuse Crisis at Annual Meeting
The Bishops of the United States gathered at their Annual Meeting in Baltimore this week focused on one topic – how to hold themselves and brother Bishops accountable for the protection of minors from sexual abuse.
But in a surprise announcement during the opening remarks, that goal was delayed by a request from the Vatican to hold off until a February synod in Rome in which Bishops from the entire world will gather to struggle with the issue together.
Despite the detour, the need to act was still very much on their minds:
“Brother Bishops, to exempt ourselves from these high standards of accountability is unacceptable and cannot stand,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “In fact, we, as successors to the apostles, must hold ourselves to the highest possible standard. Doing anything less insults those working to protect and heal from the scourge of abuse.”
It was not clear what concerned the Vatican about the proposed reforms but some insight came from the speech by Papal Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre:
“To regain trust it is not enough to simply preach words about responsibility, without living the difficulties of that responsibility, even in the face of criticism,” said the Archbishop. “When it comes to the responsibilities, with which we are charged - with children and the vulnerable at the forefront - we must show that we can solve problems rather than simply delegating them to others.”
Even though the focus for reforms now shifts to the Rome meeting, the Bishops addressed several elements of the crisis, including:
- A presentation by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’ victim assistance coordinator on how to journey with victims and survivors of child sexual abuse.
- While not voting on the proposals, the Bishops examined recommendations on actions such as a third-party reporting mechanism, standards of conduct for bishops and protocols for bishops resigned or removed because of abuse. Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles outlined the proposals.
- They heard reports from the National Advisory Council and National Review Board.
Calls were also very strong to “get to the heart” of the case of former Cardinal Theodore McGarrick who advanced in Church hierarchy despite a history of sexual abuse of seminarians and a minor. “This is the one that needs to be addressed,” said Cardinal DiNardo. “It’s just bad for our people.”
In other business during the meeting, the Bishops approval a pastoral letter speaking out against racism (see more here) and elected new committee chairs. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco was elected chair of the Committee on Laity, Marriage and Family Life, while Bishop Michael Barber was elected chair of the Education Committee.
Cardinal DiNardo closed the conference restating the commitment to do what is necessary to get to the bottom of the Archbishop McCarrick situation, to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by Bishops easier, and to develop a means of holding Bishops accountable that was genuinely independent, duly authorized and has substantial lay involvement.
“Brothers, I opened the meeting expressing some disappointment. I end it with hope,” he said.
Call for Prayer and Assistance for CA Wildfires
While the deadliest wildfires California has ever experienced continues to burn, Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez and CCC President and Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto are asking for prayer and support for all those affected.
"Friends, the devastation of the wildfires continues — both here in southern California and in the northern part of the state,” said Archbishop Gomez said. “We need to keep praying for those who have lost their lives and their homes and livelihoods, and for all the men and women fighting the fires. May God keep everyone safe and bring these fires under control. We have started a fund to help the victims of these fires. Please offer whatever help you can."
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is providing support to the communities affected by the Woolsey and Hill fires through Catholic Charities of Los Angeles and local parishes and schools. Donations can be made at archla.org/fires.
The deadly Camp Fire in Butte County has already claimed more than fifty lives, and has destroyed more than 7,600 homes and more than 8,800 structures.
“The tremendous loss from the Camp Fire ravaging parts of the diocese is devastating,” said Bishop Soto. “The families in Paradise and the surrounding communities affected by the fire can rely on the support of our prayers. We also pray for the brave men and women responding to this disaster and battling the fires. May all those who have died in this catastrophic inferno be granted eternal repose in the merciful hands of the Lord Jesus.”
Those wishing to help victims of the Camp Fire can donate here. Those in immediate need of temporary shelter, food or assistance fires can contact their parish for support services.
Catholic Teaching: Death Penalty Is “Inadmissible”
Consistency in the abhorrence of violence is the hallmark of the Church's teaching on the death penalty.
U.S. Bishops have pointed to the fact that state-sanctioned killing diminishes us all, the application of capital punishment is flawed and inconsistent, and that the state has other ways of punishing criminals.
In his address to the International Association of Penal Law, Pope Francis stated the heaviness behind the need to end capital punishment.
“There are many well-known arguments against the death penalty. The Church has duly highlighted several, such as the possibility of judicial error and the use made by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes who use it as a means of suppressing political dissidence or of persecuting religious and cultural minorities, all victims who, in their respective legislation are termed “delinquents,” the Holy Father said. “All Christians and men of good will are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom. And I link this to life imprisonment.”
Visit the California Catholic Conference’s dedicated Death Penalty page to discover more on Catholic teaching and the renewed call to end the death penalty and take a stand for all lives.
New Bishops’ Statement Challenges Racism
During its National General Assembly this week, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (UCSSB) voted to approve a Pastoral Letter addressing the evil of racism and advance the sainthood cause of Sister Thea Bowman, a trailblazing African-American sister in the U.S.
“Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, A Pastoral Letter Against Racism," was approved by the full body of bishops with a two-thirds majority vote of 241 to 3 with 1 abstention.
“The entire body of bishops felt the need to address the topic of racism, once again, after witnessing the deterioration of the public discourse, and episodes of violence and animosity with racial and xenophobic overtones, that have re-emerged in American society in the last few years,” said a statement from the USCCB Cultural Diversity in the Church Committee.
“Pastoral letters from the full body of bishops are rare, few and far between. But at key moments in history, the bishops have come together for important pronouncements, paying attention to a particular issue and with the intention of offering a Christian response, full of hope, to the problems of our time. This is such a time,” the statement said.
The Bishops also voted to further the cause of sainthood for Sr. Thea Bowman. The granddaughter of slaves, Sr. Bowman was the only African-American member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and was the first black sister to address the USCCB. She fought to transcend racism and left a lasting mark on U.S. Catholic life in the late 20th century.
The vote opens the way for a diocesan commission to determine whether Sr. Bowman lived a life of "extraordinary and heroic virtue."
Catholics Call on President to Reconsider Asylum Policies
Several prominent Catholic organizations have issued a statement reiterating that it is not a crime to seek asylum and urging the Administration to seek other solutions that will strengthen the integrity of the existing immigration system.
The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, and Catholic Relief Services are calling on the Trump Administration to reconsider its asylum policies:
“We reiterate that it is not a crime to seek asylum and this right to seek refuge is codified in our laws and in our values,” the statement reads. “The Catholic Church will continue to serve, accompany and assist all those who flee persecution, regardless of where they seek such protection and where they are from.”
Read the full statement here.
November 16, 2018
Vol. 11, No. 31