This has been an ugly week: first for the survivors of sex abuse; second, for Catholics across the state; third, for the wider public. For many, rage is the emotion of choice. The latest grand jury report is a bitterly painful text. But rage risks wounding the innocent along with the guilty, and it rarely accomplishes anything good.
The Stoics believed that anger is never a healthy thing: It always involves an inhuman appetite to hurt others, and it always poisons the soul. But this isn’t the Christian view. The anger Jesus showed toward the Temple moneychangers, the Sadducees, and the Pharisees was not merely acceptable but right and good. The anger Philadelphians felt toward the Archdiocese after the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports was likewise well placed and justified.
We’ve worked hard to remember the lessons of that time. Seven years later, we are keenly aware of the evil that sexual abuse victims have suffered. We understand our obligation, and we’re sincerely committed, to help survivors heal. We’ve worked hard to ensure the safety of children and families in Church-related environments. In that task, the guidance and counsel of laypeople – including former law enforcement officials and professionals in assisting abuse survivors – have been especially valuable. We know that rebuilding the trust of our people and the morale of our good priests can only be accomplished with a record of doing the right thing over time. The roughly 100,000 laypeople and clergy we’ve trained in recent years to recognize and report the signs of sexual abuse are part of that effort.
This week’s grand jury report on clergy sex abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses covers more than seven decades. Some people, credible people, have challenged its processes and disputed elements of its content. But the substance of the report is brutally graphic and profoundly disturbing as a chronicle of evil inflicted on hundreds of innocents. The only acceptable responses are grief and support for the victims, and comprehensive efforts to ensure that such things never recur. And anger. Anger is also a righteous and necessary response – but it needs to be an anger that bears good fruit; an anger guided by clear thinking, prudence, and a desire for real justice. That kind of anger all of us should feel this week and carry with us into the days ahead.
On August 16, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, issued a statement on the situation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. As a member of the USCCB executive committee, I support Cardinal DiNardo’s leadership on these difficult issues, and offer his thoughts here:
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.
The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.
We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.
The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.
Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.
The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.
The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.
The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.
We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.
The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.
The second criterion relates to authority in the Church. Because only the Pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power.
Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.
Finally, I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.
We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.
Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.”
Editor’s Note: You are also strongly encouraged to visit www.AOPPledgetoProtect.com and share it broadly with others. It tells the story of where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed in our work to create safe environments and support survivors.
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Prayer and fasting offered up for our church is necessary to combat this evil. Read up on the Flame of Love.
I hope to soon see a full and thorough investigation into the allegations made by Archbishop Vigano regarding Cdl McCarrick. The Pope has declined comment, which just adds to the confusion and hurt. If Archbishop Vigano is spreading ‘fake news,’ as some prelates suggest, we need to know that. Surely this matter cannot be ignored.
We need, on allegation-by-allegation basis, a plain and unambiguous statement from the Pope whether each Vigano allegation is true or false. The Pope’s remarks on the airplane are unacceptable and, at least in my mind, create a presumption that Vigano’s allegations are true.
TJ, recently when discussing potential, climate change, Pope Francis said there ‘no time to lose.’ There’s even less time to lose in responding to Cdl Vigano’s claims of abuse-coverups. Times have changed; ‘no comment’ on Church sex-abuse no longer cuts it.
This has nothing to do with homosexuality. What about the priest who impregnated a 17 year old girl, and then secured abortion for her? I read the entire report– it made me sick. Yes, there were reports of sodomy, but there were reports of female sex abuse, too. Homosexuality and pedophilia are two different orientations, and have nothing to do with each other. I believe this problem has more to do with structure and secrecy within the Church, as well as the abuse of power.
Almost all sexual abuse described in the report, which covered over 70 years, involved homosexuality. Most abuses involved minor teens and adult males, not females.
My prayers will be constant for the profound situation in our Holy Catholic Church . If we are persistent with our prayers, Our Lord will hear us.
Every priest, deacon and lay person should go on youtube, Mother Angelica live, Father Steven Scheier, Especially the 2nd interview. Says it all.
You bishops still don’t get it.
We don’t want three goals or the other nonsense. The victim should contact the police directly and not some diocesan phone number. Calling such a number only helps the diocese to cover its tracks. If the police find any attempt at coverup they should bring charges against the person and/or diocese. Also make it clear in plain English, if the victim is lying the diocese will sue to the full extent of the law.
Is that so hard to understand ?
I agree in part with this comment. The Church should encourage victims to report abuse directly to the police. The Church can also set up a mechanism by which to report abuse internally, but the first call – either from from the victim or the the first church official to learn about the abuse – should be to the police. The part with which I disagree is that there is no need to threaten to sue people for filing a false accusation. That would have a chilling effect that would discourage victims from reporting for fear that they would be accused of lying.
No where do you mention the sub culture of homosexuality..no where you mention cardinals. All of this won’t mean a hill of beans if it is not part of the “package”. If one “liberal aha/ah bishop is replaced..another of the same ilk will take it place. We cannot regain our holiness, purity, chastity if the same wicked remains.Apologies.. I don’t want to hear it..REPENT and SIN no more. What is there not to understand???
Totally agree with Bonnie. No mention of homosexuality as being the cause of all this. Very disappointing that the Archbishop skirts around this.
Young, innocent, trusting children who love and respect their parents, put faith and trust in their clergy to be good, decent, protectors of their goodness, innocence and youth.
And especially, of those who turned a blind eye to the damage inflicted on these kids by those predators for the sake of institutional reputation, and who allowed predatory behavior to inflict itself on other little ones I find is painfully difficult to accept and forgive. It’s impossible to assure weeds will not appear in any garden, but allowing them to grow and destroy God’s helpless creations – even transplanting and feeding them to continue this destruction – is evidence of some very deep-seeded issues in the church.
I wish this hadn’t happened. If my religion had been more transparent and humble and true; if its institutions could train and educate young men to be less righteous and more Christ-like servants; if somehow, there was less desperation to uphold pretense over dignity, respect and truth, then maybe these innocent kids would not have been abused by those they trusted to protect them.
I must agree with some of the comments I’m reading – it’s not enough. There needs to be more than what is in this statement. There are priests and bishops and cardinals who must not and should not be priests and bishops and cardinals. Not just for these abuses, but for all abuses – for denying truth, for upholding judgmental superiority as the Pharisees accused of hypocrisy in Mathew’s Gospel.
“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted”. How many of our priests have forgotten the preeminence of God? I can’t begin to understand how a man can be both priest and predator – it’s beyond comprehension! But something is deeply flawed in the institution that requires a much deeper understanding of the root cause. The measures stated by the president above fall short – very short – of addressing the root of the problem.
Christ was a humble servant. Where is Christ in all of this? HOW is anyone ordained by the Catholic church allowed, and even enabled, to do anything but humbly serve? Answer that, and the root cause that needs fixing should become evident. Until then, the statement above is like a bandaid on an infectious gash of serpents and a generation of vipers infecting this Body of Christ.
Be the wind that rustles the leaves of the tree. Step up and be the shepherd this church needs you to become, Charles Chaput.
The catholic church is far from an “Instrument of Peace”. In the past, they have treated victims of this horrible club as insignificant at best. It looks like the status quo will continue.
I don’t understand the second criteria related to Authority. In Pennsylvania we have Police. They also have authority over such matters but I don’t see them mentioned in what needs to happen here.
Glaringly missing here is the penalty for Bishops’ and other hierarchy for permitting these atrocities to occur and even worse, to continue by spreading them to other innocents. Nothing short of resignations from all involved and complicit will do. In a secular company all would have been fired immediately. In a faith based institution resignation and having their titles, both present and past removed from all documents and accounts using only their names as disgraced individuals is more than warranted for what they did or failed to do.
Additionally, the $ 8.4M in “settlements” to victims that were paid using donations of the faithful need returned to the parishes and congregants who contributed them to support the mission of the church, not to pay bribes to silence potential disgraces due to immoral actions of our supposed faith leaders.
These are justifiable and productive outcomes for the anger the church hierarchy has inflicted upon its faithful and the unforgivable sins they have allowed to occur on God’s children.
Archbishop Chaput, I find it highly unlikely that you would not have known about these instances of immoral behavior and also the payouts to some victims. Certainly each Bishop HAD to know. This is a failure of leadership, a failure of trust, and a grave sin against the victims, their families, the faithful all across PA. and ultimately against God.
Spare us the lecture on anger and why should we believe and follow the current church hierarchy in PA when you all have proven we cannot trust you.
“We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican.”
As long as members of religious, clergy, the laity, as well as the Vatican, who deny Christ’s teaching on The Sanctity of the marital act, and thus The Sanctity of The Sacrament of Marriage, are permitted to remain within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, making it appear as if it is possible for a counterfeit church, to subsist within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. the crisis will continue.
Only a Crisis in Faith can explain how such evil could be allowed to take root and remain hidden from The Faithful, exchanging God’s Truth with a lie.
“It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”; it is not possible to deny The Sanctity of Human Life, from the moment of conception, and The Sanctity of Marriage and The Family, and remain in communion with Christ, and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Pray that The Faithful do not flee on account of those wolves who deny that God Is The Author of Love, of Life, and of Marriage. Pray that those members of the religious, clergy, and hierarchy, who desire Holiness, have “the courage”, to remain witnesses to The Christ. Pray for the victims and their families, that their Faith will be restored.
Our hearts are broken-