President of the USCCB Once Again Under Fire for Improper Handling of Sex Abuse Claims
The head of the US bishops is once again under fire for inaction in a case of clergy sex abuse. We call on him to resign his post or at least recuse himself from leading the bishops’ meeting in Baltimore next week.
This time, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo reportedly deceived an abuse victim and quietly moved her perpetrator – Monsignor Frank Rossi, one of his highest-ranking deputies – to another parish, even after telling the victim that Msgr. Rossi would never be a pastor again.
According to the AP, in 2016, Cardinal DiNardo told Laura Pontikes that he believed she was a victim because Msgr. Frank Rossi had sexually exploited her. Still, according to records obtained by reporters, the Cardinal instead made Msgr. Rossi the head of an eastern Texas parish without telling Laura and apparently without disclosing the allegations to the public or parishioners. When Laura’s husband confronted Cardinal DiNardo, “the cardinal warned that the archdiocese would respond aggressively to any legal challenge — and that the fallout would hurt their family and business.”
We applaud Laura for coming forward about her experience. It is incredibly challenging for any victim to come forward and especially for those who were abused as adults. Fortunately for folks in Texas, Laura was willing to put her reputation on the line in speaking out against wrongdoing and in standing up for other survivors. We are very grateful for her courage and stand in solidarity with Laura and other victims who were abused as adults.
This case is all-too-typical of how bishops treat adult abuse survivors. Given how Pope Francis himself has recently talked about the difficulties faced by adult victims, we hope that Church leaders here in the United States would recognize those difficulties as well. Sadly, in this case, Cardinal DiNardo has instead compounded them.
Making matters worse, this is not the first time that the Cardinal has been accused of mishandling cases of abuse and treating victims poorly. Last year – ironically, also in another week leading up to a USCCB meeting – the National Catholic Reporter reported that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was aware of a Sioux City priest’s 1986 confession that he had molested at least 50 children over a twenty year period and did nothing.
In the months following that report, more facts came to light regarding Cardinal DiNardo’s willingness to keep in ministry other priests who had been accused of abuse.
It is time for Cardinal DiNardo to resign. If he doesn’t, he should at least step aside and let another prelate run next week’s USCCB meeting. Regardless of what the Cardinal does or does not do, his brother bishops should denounce and oust him. Otherwise, they make a mockery of their pledges to change, to prevent more abuse, to treat victims with dignity and to be transparent.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)