Light streamed into Bishop Thomas Daly’s office one recent afternoon as he spoke, in sometimes blunt terms, about the widening scandal of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in the United States.
“It’s a moral crisis,” Daly said. “We have degenerate behavior, hypocrisy and now cover-up. My thought is, ‘How much more can the people of God put up with?’ ”
Sexual abuse scandals have rocked the church for nearly 17 years. After the Boston Globe exposed a systemic cover-up in that city’s archdiocese in 2002, similar reports emerged across the country and the world, forcing the church to pay billions of dollars in settlements and establish reporting and prevention programs. The Spokane diocese is among those with a history of predator priests – revelations that sent it into bankruptcy in the early 2000s and dogged it for more than a decade.
The diocese has responded to new allegations in the aftermath of the bankruptcy. Last year, for example, Daly sanctioned a retired priest, Otto Koltzenburg, who had been “credibly accused” of raping an altar boy in Spokane in the 1980s.
Asked if he was aware of any other allegations within the Spokane diocese, Daly said some people recently raised concerns that their family member had been abused, but that individual declined to speak about the matter.
Daly, meanwhile, said the church conducts annual audits of each diocese to ensure that claims of abuse and misconduct are handled correctly.
Recently, he said, the audits have been conducted by a large consulting firm, but he prefers when the interviewers have law enforcement background.
He said laypeople, and especially parents, should play a prominent role in holding the church accountable, too.
Some church procedures have been mandated by litigation and settlements. The Spokane diocese, for example, is required to publicly disclose when it has determined abuse allegations to be credible, as with Koltzenburg.
At this week’s conference in Baltimore, American bishops are certain to discuss the allegations against Cardinal McCarrick, as well as claims that Pope Francis and other church leaders have known about the allegations for years.
In a series of open letters, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò – a former papal ambassador, or nuncio, to the United States – has accused the pope of covering up McCarrick’s sexual abuse and giving comfort to a “homosexual current” within the Vatican. The letters have exacerbated cultural and ideological divides within the church, pitting Francis’ inclusive vision against conservative opponents of abortion and homosexuality.
Daly said he has no firsthand knowledge of the McCarrick situation. But Spokane’s bishop indicated he has some faith in Viganò.
“I would not call Archbishop Viganò a liar,” Daly said. “I think he’s a man who wants to – I think he wants to make sure his conscience is clear before God. Now, I don’t know the vast majority of his letter. But there are segments of that letter that I know and I can attest that are true.”
Full story at The Spokesman-Review.