When the U.S. bishops meet Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore, the spotlight will be on…
Baltimore meeting gives bishops ‘real talk’ on abuse
As the U.S. bishops gathered for their general assembly in Baltimore on Nov. 12-14, much of what they wrestled with was clergy sexual abuse and an appropriate and effective response. And some of it included some “real talk” from those outside of their body.
During a day of prayer on Nov. 12, they heard from victim/survivors of clergy abuse who shared their experiences and implored the bishops to take action to ensure that abuse never be allowed to take place again. They also heard from the National Advisory Council — a group made up of 40-50 laypeople, priests, deacons, men and women religious and bishops — which offered strong words to the bishops, calling them to accountability, transparency and faithfulness.
“The clergy, including bishops, must be called back to the prophetic life of chastity and call the faithful to the same,” said Father David Whitestone, representing the NAC.
But perhaps the most significant presentation came from the head of the National Review Board, during which Dr. Francesco Cesareo offered strong words when he told the bishops that though they had accomplished much since the revelation of the scandal in 2002, their response to the abuse crisis had been “incomplete.”
“Specifically, current events reveal a continued lack of transparency about past cases of abuse and the way they were handled, as well as a lack of accountability for bishops,” Cesareo said. “Today, the faithful and the clergy do not trust many of you. They are angry and frustrated, no longer satisfied with words and even with prayer. They seek action that signals a cultural change from the leadership of the Church. Their distrust will remain until you truly embrace the principles of openness and transparency listed in the Charter. You must come to terms with the past. There cannot be reconciliation without full acknowledgement of the truth.”
Cesareo added that the National Review Board strongly recommends that the allegations made by Archbishop Viganò be addressed, saying “no stone must remain unturned.” Cesareo also said the review board supported a full, lay investigation into Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, saying, “such an investigation by a lay body must be independent if its findings are to have credibility among the faithful and society in general.”
Cesareo’s presentation gave voice to many of the concerns that we frequently hear from OSV readers. But one of the last comments, which took place within the context of discussion, is perhaps most poignant. Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, asked Cesareo what one thing he personally would like the bishops to do to preserve the communion of the Church. Cesareo’s response: “I would say to decisively act on this issue and to continue to move it forward because if that does not happen I fear for the future of our Church.”
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of Our Sunday Visitor. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.