American Catholic Bishops Face Pressure to Act on Sex Abuse Crisis Ahead of Major Meeting

Members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gather for the USCCB’s annual fall meeting, on Nov. 12, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

When the American Catholic bishops met as a body last fall, they were on the verge of voting on a series of resolutions to show they were at last taking the sexual abuse crisis seriously — particularly their role disciplining and removing errant priests and fellow bishops.

Those votes were dramatically halted at the request of the Vatican, which was planning its own summit on sex abuse.

Now, three months after that conference in Rome, the bishops are heading to a summit in Baltimore, Md., this week, where they are facing pressure to pass those stalled resolutions — and then some.

The sex abuse scandal, which continues to roil the church from the parishes to the pope, will likely be the foremost topic of discussion at the three-day U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meeting (June 11-13). Originally scheduled as a retreat in California, the bishops changed it to a business meeting after they were unable to pass resolutions on the topic at their last meeting in November.

The pressure is all the higher because the Vatican’s four-day sex abuse summit in February fell short of instituting concrete reforms in the eyes of victims groups and other advocates for more transparency on the part of the church.

The onus is now on bishops to take action at their meeting, especially in the wake of new reports that Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, head of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, did not do enough to stop a priest in his diocese accused of abuse, as well as allegations that he was slow to respond to a report of a sexual relationship between a priest and a female parishioner.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of
Galveston-Houston, president of the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops, left, leadsvthe USCCB’s
annual fall meeting on Nov. 13, 2018, in Baltimore.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

DiNardo, the current president of the USCCB, is expected to chair the meeting in Baltimore.

The conference’s troubles were compounded when the Washington Post reported last week that a West Virginia bishop sent money to those who accused him of harassment. The previous week, the Vatican handled abuse allegations of a former archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, stripping him of his cardinal title after the allegations came to light.

Last month, Pope Francis issued a new church law requiring all Catholic priests and nuns across the globe to report to church authorities any sexual abuse by their fellow clerics or cover-up by their superiors.

But in a press release, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) published a list of four recommendations for the bishops, including a requirement for clerics to report suspected abuse to both church officials and police simultaneously. The group also wanted to see the immediate release of the names of all church workers accused of committing sexual crimes, a halt to church-led efforts to fight reform of statute of limitations laws, and to push leaders to turn over their records to law enforcement.

SNAP described Francis’ edict requiring clergy to report abuse internally as “a step in the right direction,” but incomplete, insisting law enforcement should be involved.

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Source: Religion News Service