‘Shredded’ Credibility

The U.S. Catholic bishops’ point man on sexual abuse said the hierarchy’s credibility on fixing the problem is “shredded” and that the situation is comparable to the Reformation, when “the episcopacy, the regular clergy, even the papacy were discredited.” On Aug. 13 Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Ill., spoke at the National Safe Environment and Victim Assistance Coordinators Leadership Conference in Omaha, Neb. He told attendees that he had assumed that consistently implementing the bishops’ policies on child protection, “coupled with some decent publicity, would turn public opinion around” but added, “I now know this was an illusion.” Conlon said U.S. bishops still needed to clarify emerging questions about how to deal with issues like child pornography and “boundary violations,” but he said bishops “are gravely weakened and in need of assistance” in developing policies and changing public perceptions. Conlon said, “Our credibility on the subject of child abuse is shredded, [but] you may have a better chance. People—in the church, outside the church and hanging on the edge—need to know that real progress is being made.”

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