More than 20 bishops and cardinals offered passionate interventions during an open floor discussion on the sex abuse crisis at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon.
More bishops wanted to speak, but due to time constraints, their comments were reserved for the next morning.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), opened the discussions with the announcement that he had created a “deliberately small” task force, comprised of himself and the former presidents of the USCCB.
The task force, which includes DiNardo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory, will work closely with the committees of the conference to examine instances of abuse and mishandling of abuse cases, and their work will culminate in a report presented at the next bishops’ meeting in June, DiNardo said.
Afterwards DiNardo opened the floor to any comments on the task force or the issue of the sex abuse crisis at large.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has been barred from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the mishandling and cover-up of abuse cases involving minors and priests there, opened up the comments from the bishops, urging them to seek a greater collegiality amongst themselves as “brother bishops.”
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco gave a long intervention in which he described what he has been hearing from Catholics in his area.
“We’ve heard how important it is to listen to our people, I’ve held listening sessions in my own Archdiocese” regarding the abuse scandal, he said.
From his listening sessions, Cordileone said he has found that Catholics tend to fall in one of two camps regarding the abuse crisis: the first camp believes that the Church is not talking about the real problem, which is the prevalence homosexuality among the clergy and its correlation with abuse, he said.
The second camp believes that the real problem is an all-male hierarchy, “because women would never have allowed this to happen,” and therefore women must be invited in to all levels of the clergy.
Cordileone, who clarified that he was merely reporting what he found among his people, said that both conclusions are overly simplistic, but neither are without some merit.
“We do sometimes act as a good old boys club,” he said, with problems of “cronyism, favoritism, and cover-up.” He urged the bishops to find solutions to these “legitimate concerns” of Catholics in the second camp.
When considering the first camp, Cordileone cautioned against the “overly simplistic” conclusion that homosexuality causes sexual abuse. That “obviously cannot be true” he said, as some priests with homosexual tendencies faithfully serve the Church, while some heterosexually priests serve the Church poorly.
Still, the concern “has some validity,” he said, pointing to a recently-published study by Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor. Sullins’ analysis found a rising trend in abuse, and argued that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.
“The worst thing we could do is discredit this study so we can ignore or deny this reality,” Cordileone said. “We have to lean into it…to ignore it would be fleeing from the truth.”
The archbishop recommended further studies into the correlation between homosexuality and sexual abuse, one that avoids “quick and easy answers” and would attempt to find the root causes of this correlation.
Cordileone’s was the first intervention met with applause from many bishops.
Another California bishop, Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, followed Cordileone’s comments by asking about the status of the Vatican investigation into the accusations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and whether the bishops might “bring any respectful pressure to bear” to the Holy See on furthering the investigation.
DiNardo responded, saying that he knew that the four dioceses in which McCarrick had served had opened investigations, but he did not know of the status of a Vatican investigation on the matter.
In his comments, Bishop Robert Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, said he agreed with an earlier suggestion of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, that the remedy for the abuse crisis and accusations against bishops may already be found in the bishop’s charters and laws.
“People say the Church is hung up on sex, this is evidence of that,” he said regarding the debate about the sex abuse crisis. “We are capable of malfeasance in many other areas as well,” he said. “I promised celibacy during (ordinations),” he added, “and I have to say I’m a little chagrined to be asked to sign something that says I will be accountable to certain standards.”
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a “small rural area” with a minority Catholic population, gave a notably strong intervention, in which he asked the bishops to consider how McCarrick got to be in the positions that he was “if we really believed that what was going on was wrong?”
“It’s part of our deposit of faith that we believe homosexual activity is immoral,” he said. “How did he get promoted if we are all of one mind that this is wrong? Do we believe the doctrine of the Church or not?”
Strickland said that while homosexual people are “children of God who deserve great care” and not personal condemnation, the Church should teach clearly that homosexual actions are sinful, and help people move from sin to virtue.
“There’s a priest that travels around saying that he doesn’t (believe this teaching), and he’s well promoted in various places,” Strickland said. “Can that be presented in our dioceses? That same-sex marriage is just fine and that the Church may one day grow to understand that? That’s not what we teach.”
Strickland’s intervention was also followed by applause from numerous bishops.
DiNardo commented that he personally reads “thousands” of letters that the “people of God” have sent to the USCCB.
“If there’s one thing that nags at everyone, it’s the Archbishop McCarrick thing,” he said. “It seems to be ubiquitous. This is the one that I think has to be addressed, it’s just bad for our people.”
Full story at Catholic News Agency.