American Catholic Bishops Miss Their Big Chance to Implement Sex-Abuse Reforms

By Olivia Paschal

BALTIMORE—This week’s fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was supposed to be the first high-profile occasion for the Church’s top leaders to take steps toward rebuilding public trust after a series of revelations this summer in the ongoing sex-abuse crisis. The assembly was slated to vote this week on a series of reforms to address the crisis, but its plans were quickly upended by the Vatican, throwing the reforms’ future into doubt.

Had they passed, the proposed measures would have created a code of conduct for bishops and a special commission, including six lay members, tasked with working with the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s diplomatic representative to the United States Church, to investigate allegations of bishop misconduct. These would have been small but significant moves toward making bishops more accountable when they fail to report abusive priests, or when they are accused of abuse themselves. But even these limited actions were delayed.

On Monday morning, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the conference’s president, announced that the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops had asked the bishops to delay a vote on the reforms. They would wait until a February meeting between Pope Francis and the heads of bishops’ conferences around the world. The Holy See’s request came as an unwelcome shock to many of the bishops, and may further strain the already tense relationship between American bishops and the papacy.

“There was a lot of disappointment among bishops, a lot of disappointment among priests, a lot of disappointment among the laity,” Paul Coakley, the archbishop of Oklahoma City, told me. During a Monday-afternoon press conference, DiNardo called the Holy See’s lett...

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  • Richard Kensinger, MSW
    commented 2018-11-15 14:01:46 -0600
    I reside in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese, PA. I have divorced the Church over this world-wide and persisting scandal. I closely monitor the words and actions of Bishop Mark Bartchack. We’ve had a pay-off fund since 1999. Its only function is to hide blatant criminality from public scrutiny. The Church acts like a global corporation in that the “Brand” is far more important than kids.

    We have a state AG Report that implicates 50 perps, 46 are clergy. And it highlights massive cover-up by the previous 2 bishops. We are now under federal investigation which I fully support!
    Rich, MSW

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