Catholic bishops -- religious liberty, religion's shame

Catholic bishops -- religious liberty, religion's shame

Catholic bishops are spearheading a movement of rallies and prayer vigils for religious freedom this summer, which skeptics could view as a classic public-relations tactic of misdirection. The events happen to fall on the anniversary of the most shameful chapter of American bishops' history.

Ten years ago this month, I sat ringside at the Fairmont Hotel in downtown Dallas, where U.S. bishops, pummeled publicly because of their gross mismanagement of clergy abuse scandals, were meeting under the spotlight of more than 800 media outlets, hundreds of protesters and Catholic advocacy groups.

For months, story after story about Catholic priests raping children rocked the nation, particularly in Boston, the epicenter of the scandals. Under public pressure and embarrassment, the bishops adopted a policy regarding child sexual abuse in June 2002, even though many of them, like the Vatican, believed the scandals were overblown by the media. The policy had no enforcement mechanism.

As a religion reporter for the Dallas Morning News, I watched with disgust as intransigent bishops battled mightily over what should have been no-brainer matters, such as whether to report child-abuse complaints to police before conducting an ecclesial investigation. Shockingly, many wanted to give pr...

 

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