A facebook friend alerted me to this “Statement on Course of Action Responding to Moral Failures on Part of Church Leaders” posted on the USCCB website today.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo acknowledges the obvious:
Both the abuses themselves, and the fact that they have remained undisclosed for decades, have caused great harm to people’s lives and represent grave moral failures of judgement on the part of Church leaders.
Except for a few of my contacts in the blogosphere and social media, “live” Catholics are unaware or not talking much about it.
I don’t have a problem with taking some time on this:
I have convened the USCCB Executive Committee. This meeting was the first of many among bishops that will extend into our Administrative Committee meeting in September and our General Assembly in November. All of these discussions will be oriented toward discerning the right course of action for the USCCB.
Four immediate points of actions are given:
- To bishops, accompany those abused or harassed.
- To those abused or harassed, come forward, and contact civil authorities if the incident was a crime.
- To investigate the “many questions,” and find the truth.
- The recognition “that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins.”
Number one may be difficult in some places. Certainly, parish clergy and other ministers can be alert to the second point. We may well need preparation if people coming forward place us in a difficult spot with other leaders.
As for the third point, some Catholics may well question any internal investigation. Especially if it turns up something like, “He was the only one. Everybody else is good.” Bishop Bruskewitz of Lincoln insisted on that, refusing to participate in the 2002 Charter. He might well have been correct to state he had no problem in his part of Nebraska. Thing is, a conspirator or a sinner would have said the very same thing. Who can tell them apart? People who like the guy?
That spiritual conversion in number 4–that’s a tough one. What does that look like? Some possibilities with precedent, little precedent, and unprecedented, not in any particular order:
- Clergy, including bishops, who covered up crimes could, as they did in Chile, offer an immediate resignation of their office to Rome.
- Clergy who covered up crimes who remain active in the priesthood could be barred from wearing the vesture of office either in public (civilian wear only) or at liturgy (no chasuble or “choir dress”) for a set period of time, probably measured in years, say a minimum of seven.
- Said clergy, if guilty of cover-up but no sexual crimes, could be shipped off to regular parish service as sacramental ministers, especially if there’s been service in chanceries or seminaries.
- It may be that an archdiocese would cede its position as a metropolitan see in its province, perhaps permanently or for a significant period of time, say forty years.
Seminaries present a problem. The students can, of course, be educated at any accredited graduate school. Faculty have jobs, however. My hope would be that formation for Holy Orders would get more of a balance between service in pastoral ministry and classroom seminars. At least 50-50.
The whole seminary set-up seems inadequate for ministry as a priest. Candidates are formed in a quasi-monastic system, but without the core values of the monastery (hospitality, stability, physical labor, financial responsibility), then set lose in what is a largely eremitic existence–something abbots are loathe to release all but the most sound of the members of their communities.
My sense is that the USCCB will scratch a little deeper than in 2002. They might realize their perceptions were way off from the laity and clergy in the last go-round. If they are lucky, this is only strike two. But there’s no guarantee this game is baseball.