Advocacy groups blast Vatican delay of U.S. Catholic bishops’ vote on sexual abuse scandal
Catholics who were hoping for a substantive response from the U.S. bishops this week to the clergy sexual abuse crisis will have to wait a little longer.
The bishops, meeting in the 2018 General Assembly in Baltimore, learned Monday the Vatican had asked them to postpone a vote on a series of proposals addressing their part in the crisis. Pope Francis first wants to hold a summit on the scandal in February.
The two measures that were on the agenda were a code of conduct for bishops and the creation of a lay commission to review violations of the code.
Advocacy groups reacted angrily to the Vatican’s delay of the vote.
“It is clear that a real response is needed in order to prevent future abuse, deter more cover-ups and ensure accountability for bishops who fail to protect children and vulnerable adults. Today’s action by the Vatican makes us wary that such a real response will be taken,” said Judy Jones of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
Jones referred to the proposals as “half measures” but said they were at least a step in the right direction.
“We’re seeing where the problem lies, which is with the Vatican,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of the website BishopAccountability.org . “The outcome of this meeting, at best, was going to be tepid and ineffectual, but now it’s actually going to be completely without substance.”
Doyle and co-director Terence McKiernan held a news conference following the morning session, calling on all U.S. Catholic bishops to resign, to publish the names of all priests, brothers and nuns in their dioceses who have been accused of abuse, and to “stop blocking legislation that would give victims more time to take legal action.”
“You should offer your resignations, as the Chilean bishops did, and invite an investigation by Archbishop (Charles) Scicluna, and provide him everything he needs. You are not credible as an organization with men like Archbishop (John) Nienstedt and Cardinal (Theodore) McCarrick in your ranks,” the group said in a letter to conference president Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.
Pope Francis last month accepted the resignation of Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who name was mentioned 169 times in a statewide grand jury report that detailed 70 years of abuse by church officials in six Pennsylvania dioceses — including the ones based in Greensburg and Pittsburgh. The report was critical of Wuerl’s handling of allegations while he was bishop of the Pittsburgh diocese from 1988 to 2006.
Wuerl was not among the 301 “predator priests” named in the report. The grand jury detailed times when Wuerl intervened to stop priests accused of abuse but also times where he transferred those priests to other parishes.
Neither Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic nor Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who both are at the national meeting, could be reached for comment.
Malesic last week said he supported a standard code of conduct for all bishops.
“We need to be held accountable,” he told the Tribune-Review.
Zubik told the Trib in August , soon after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, he has no plan to resign. He reiterated that intention in October, when an airplane flew a banner stating “Resign Bishop Zupik (sic)” flew over downtown Pittsburgh.
DiNardo expressed disappointment with the Vatican’s decision to delay the vote.
In his opening remarks to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, he said, “Whether we will be remembered as guardians of the abused or the abuser will be determined by our actions beginning this week.”
Referring to the “zero tolerance” policy adopted by the bishops in 2002, DiNardo said, “Brother bishops, to exempt ourselves from these high standards of accountability is unacceptable and cannot stand. 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.”
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @shuba_trib.