In his debut at America’s largest annual Catholic gathering, one of the rising stars of the U.S. hierarchy warned that full recovery from the clerical abuse scandals, including a new style of leadership in the Church, will be a “generational” task.

“We’ll be at this for a while,” said Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who made a splash at last fall’s Synod of Bishops in Rome with his blunt, forceful language on the abuse crisis.

“We have become a society that sees everything in terms of power, as an authority or force over you, rather than a service in support of you, which is what the Lord defines authority and power,” Caggiano said in a March 22 interview with Crux.

“That’s going to be a generational amount of work to get to,” he said. “You’re going to need the few saints to lead the rest of us to figure out how to do it.”

Caggiano was speaking on the margins of the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, an annual gathering held at the Anaheim Convention Center that regularly attracts in excess of 30,000 youth, catechists, religion teachers and other leaders in the Church.

The Bridgeport prelate, who’s originally from Brooklyn, was on hand to deliver two talks on Friday, one to youth and another to catechists, before taking a red-eye flight back to his diocese on Saturday to preside over a confirmation ceremony.

In his conversation with Crux, Caggiano stressed the need not just for improved structures and procedures to combat clerical abuse, but also “spiritual conversion.”

“If the sexual abuse crisis is, in part, an abuse of power, there is no mandate, procedure or process on earth that can avoid an abuse of power unless there’s a change of heart, a change in priority, a change in the way we exercise leadership, and the spirit with which you exercise leadership,” he said.

“I mean episcopal leadership, pastoral, lay leadership, leadership in families … there has to be a change,” Caggiano said.

Right now, Caggiano said, reform is happening in fits and starts among communities that foster both hope and joy in the Christian life despite the pain, which he described as characteristic of how the Church works.

“Reforming the Church never happens when everyone does it simultaneously,” he said. “Reform always starts in certain places that begin to grow, whether it’s in the Patristic era, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Reformation, the same is happening here.”

Full story at Angelus News.