The Roman Catholic bishops couldn’t take any more public pressure, so they have decided to summon an urgent assembly in order to solve this hot topic regarding the severe accusations of child abuse. The bishops stated that this just might represent the most critical moment in modern Church’s history.
Francesco Cesareo, a scholar chairing this national sex-abuse review board, which has been set by the bishops, stated that the meeting, which should last for four days, was about to begin. His main concern is how will the bishops will determine their future politics and if their leadership and trustworthiness can ever be restored.
Some of the crucial topics on this agenda call for supportive care for the abuse victims and a completely new reporting system. The voting on this proposal is set for Wednesday or Thursday.
The new law which Pope Francis issued on May 9 will present guidelines for the deliberations. This requires the nuns and the priests of Roman Catholic Church worldwide to report any form of sexual abuse, and the cover-ups by church authorities or their superiors. This way is supposed to be even safer for the ones who decide to report such actions.
The advocates of the abused victims suggest for U.S. bishops to go even one step further, and immediately contact the authorities.
President of the bishop’s assembly and the head of Galveston-Houston Archdiocese, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said that he was optimistic about the potential significant progress which could be generated this week.
He endorsed the Pope for making some global guidelines for fight against the child and any other type of sexual abuse. This provides the space for the U.S. bishops to work on every single detail.
Should the Sexual Abuse Allegations be Handed Over to the Authorities?
One of the major changes in this matter so far could be the proposal of creating a third, independent party. This party should review the allegations of abuse and hand them over to civil authorities first, followed by the review board of the Church.
The assembly of bishops should also vote on another important matter — a proposal to encourage the involvement of lay experts who will obtain the power to handle significant allegations of abuse.
Cesareo also added that the inclusion of these experts was essential if the bishops wanted to bring back the trust of the public. If they refuse such a suggestion, people might see this as essentially bishops judging other bishops.
On Tuesday, there was a release of a national survey by Pew Research Center. It was about disappointment and detachment among the States’ Catholics. In one of the polls conducted in March this year, about one-fourth of Catholics reduced their donations because of this abuse crises. Only thirty-six percent of them said that the bishops did a good job responding to the crisis.
For the sake of comparison, back in the 1990s, fifty-seven percent believed in the bishops’ excellent work. In 2018, this number went south with only forty-five percent of U.S. Catholics believing in Church’s good work. As the center estimates, last year, in the States, there were 76.3 million Catholics. This is a significant decrease compared to 81.2 million from ten years ago. Even so, the Catholic Church has remained the biggest denomination in the States to this day.
The Biggest Challenge Before US Bishops
The last year’s events made an unprecedented challenge before the States’ bishops. Many parishes became targets of the State of Pennsylvania’s investigations since the grand jury detailed hundreds of reported cases of abuse in August last year.
Earlier this year, Theodore McCarrick of Washington, former Cardinal, faced expulsion from his priesthood. This happened after the investigation determined that he sexually abused seminarians and minors. There is an ongoing investigation of whether or not the church officials covered up his misdemeanor.
Another team of investigations has recently concluded that a former bishop in West Virginia, Michael Bransfield, has engaged in the acts financial misconduct and sexual harassment over many years.
Not even the chairman of the Galveston-Houston Archdiocese, DiNardo, has been excluded from controversy. Just last week, there was a woman from Houston who claimed that DiNardo mishandled her report of financial and sexual misconduct against his deputy. The archdiocese stated that they categorically rejected her story as predisposed.
Nevertheless, the archdiocese later stated that they would review these accusations. She said that the deputy, Monsignor Frank Rossi, kept hearing her confessions after he lured her into a purely sexual relationship. If these allegations turned out to be accurate, it could be a potentially severe crime under the church law.
DiNardo, who was attending the news conference on Tuesday, tried to defend his Houston actions as well as the bishops’ vigorous efforts to bring back their credibility. He said that the Houston situation struck him as very distinctive. He also said that he had strongly disagreed with the facts which were presented there.
However, DiNardo also claimed that from the point of their own local Church, he gave his best efforts to be as straightforward to the members of the community as he possibly could. He suggested that the Church needed to put together a particular package, in which they dealt with the problems of transparency.
Different Catholic Leaders Point of View
Catholic leaders argue, each of them providing some statistical back-up about the instances of clergyman sex abuse. The main problem with this topic is the fact that, in 2002, the main guidelines of how to proceed with important issues were dismissed. DiNardo said that he believed that the Church happened to be far safer today than when they launched the Charter.
He added that many programs of background checking, review boards, safe environment training, victim assistance, and enforcing zero tolerance policies required hundreds of dedicated teams. These teams have to place child safety as their highest priority.
Coincidentally, the second-biggest denomination in the States, the Southern Baptist Convention, also decided to open a national meeting on Tuesday. They are gathering in Birmingham, Alabama. Their agenda is very similar and focused on sex abuse. Just like the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Convention has monitored the significant fall of its members in 2018. They are down approximately 190,000 compared to the previous year.