Vatican tells U.S. bishops to delay votes on new sex abuse protocols

Pope Francis greets Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, during a meeting with representatives of the conference at the Vatican Oct. 8. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Catholic bishops from the United States gathered in Baltimore this week for their annual fall meeting had planned to discuss and vote on new protocols aimed at holding bishops accountable for sexual abuse. But in a surprise announcement at the start of the meeting, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo told bishops that the Vatican has asked them to delay the vote until after a February meeting in Rome with the heads of bishops conferences from around the world to discuss sexual abuse.

“Although I am disappointed that we will not be taking these actions tomorrow,” said Cardinal DiNardo, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “I remain hopeful this additional consultation will ultimately improve our response to the crisis we face.”

Advertisement

Bishops had been scheduled to vote on three “action items” related to abuse: approving new “Standards of Episcopal Conduct” for bishops, the creation of a new commission to handle allegations of abuse against bishops, and new protocols for bishops who are removed or who resign from office due to sexual misconduct with adults or minors.

In response to the news that the Vatican had asked bishops to delay the vote, Cardinal Blase Cupich took the floor to urge bishops to continue discussing the proposals and to vote on them as resolutions, in order to convey to the Vatican that “there’s an urgency here.”

“It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church, seeing it as a watershed moment in putting so much emphasis on the February meeting.”

“It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church, seeing it as a watershed moment, not just for the church in this country, but around the world, in putting so much emphasis on the February meeting,” the Chicago archbishop and papal adviser said.

But he added that U.S. bishops must “take up this issue for the good of the church in this country without delay.” He proposed that U.S. bishops tweak the protocols during this meeting and then meet again during a special session in March to discuss the February meeting and to vote to adopt the proposed protocols.

At a press conference, Cardinal DiNardo said the letter from Rome had come from the Congregation for Bishops and he said he was unaware if Pope Francis was involved in the request, adding that bishops are “disappointed” by the development.

“It’s quizzical why it would happen,” he said, though he conceded that the documents bishops were set to debate were not finalized until Oct. 30 and that there may be issues concerning canon law that need to be addressed before the Vatican would accept any new protocols concerning bishops. The cardinal said bishops would still review the proposals and continue forward, without a vote, calling the change a “bump in the road.”

Security inside the Marriott where bishops are gathered is tight, and outside a group of protesters from Bishop Accountability held a press conference during which they criticized what they called a “pre-emptive” strike against reform by the Vatican, called on all U.S. bishops to submit their resignations to the pope, and urged dioceses to publish full lists of credibly accused priests.

“The future and health of Catholicism in the United States is at stake here,” said Terry McKiernan of Bishop Accountability, who added that U.S. Catholics “look at the bishops and do not trust them anymore.”

The Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests was likewise upset by the delay, saying in a statement that while they found the proposals to be “half measures,” they were nonetheless “still steps forward.”

“We hope that this means that, at the meeting between the pope and presidents of bishops’ conferences in February, concrete steps will be taken to ensure accountability for bishops who cover-up abuse,” the statement continued.

The pope’s ambassador to the United States told bishops that working with lay people in ushering in reforms is “critical” and “essential.”

But Archbishop Christophe Pierre said bishops have a responsibility to combat the problems themselves.

“However, the responsibility, as bishops of this Catholic Church, is ours—to live with, to suffer with, and to exercise properly,” he said. “The People of God have rightly challenged us to be trustworthy.”

He said “bishops must not be afraid to get our hands dirty in doing that work in the vineyard of the Lord” and he thanked the media for bringing “attention to precisely what we did not attend to ourselves.”

With sex abuse crises roiling dioceses in the United States, Europe and South America, Pope Francis announced in September that he would host a meeting at the Vatican in February with the heads of bishops conferences from around the world to discuss the church’s response.

Cardinal Cupich said that U.S. bishops may benefit from that meeting but he added, “we need to act soon, without delay.”

The issue of sexual abuse by clergy has been back in the news since earlier this year, when former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was removed from public ministry because an allegation that he sexually abused a minor decades ago was deemed credible by a review board. Then, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania listed allegations of sexual abuse against children by priests that spanned decades, which led to the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, whose actions as the bishop of Pittsburgh to hold accused priests accountable were criticized as insufficient.

And in Buffalo, Bishop Richard Malone is facing calls to resign from lay people and even some of his priests over allegations that he did not take seriously allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. Bishop Malone admitted he made mistakes but said as recently as last week that he would not step down. Law enforcement officials in Washington and in at least a dozen states are looking into how dioceses handled allegations of abuse.

In his presidential address to the bishops, Cardinal DiNardo said responding to the sexual abuse crisis “will require all our spiritual and physical resources,” and he said the church must take seriously the challenge to enact “changes that the people of God are rightfully demanding.”

“We must expand our understanding of protection and vigilance,” he said.

This story has been updated.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tim O'Leary
4 weeks ago

This really ups the stakes on the February meeting, since this action will be interpreted by many (inside and outside the Church) as a resistance to Episcopal oversight, in a time when several Bishops have clearly failed in their personal and pastoral duties. It also seems to directly contradict the idea of synodality that suddenly appeared in the closing document of the Youth synod. Maybe, Pope Francis is going to pull off a great reform in Feb, but, until then, it is not unreasonable to interpret this as tone-deaf mismanagement.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks ago

Real issue? The real abuse issue is not sex abuse of minors which was horrendous but symptomatic of something else. It is the abuse of one's vows of chastity of priests and religious. Is this focus on minors which mainly happened several years ago a way of covering up the real problem of today?

Daniel Montiel
4 weeks ago

🤣🤣
I may owe you a thanks - your terribly/horribly/ridiculously obvious efforts to change the subject from the Church’s *utter* failure to protect the youngest members of its flock to “expose” the issue which you think will make people forget that the Catholic Church, both in individual cases as well as institutionally, abused its power and the faith of the people, for the purposes of avoiding accountability.
*sigh*
And - let’s never forget - did so repeatedly, flagrantly, and with never a *care* for how much danger they were causing God’s work.

Tim O'Leary
4 weeks ago

Daniel - you completely misunderstood Cosgrove. As the John Jay Report and the PA Grand jury report found, 5% of the abuse is pedophilia, the rest are teenagers, 80% homosexual and none of these figures count the abuse of seminarians (100% homosexual). The bishops need to address all three layers to be credible.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks ago

I may owe you a thanks

Why don't you ask questions instead of attacking. You haven't a clue as to what I mean. The abuse of minors was horrendous but mainly in the past. What is the current corruption? That is what I believe is being suppressed or covered up. How are bishops or cardinals being chosen? You can disagree but this may be far more serious.

Tatiana Durbak
4 weeks ago

That would only be so if one were to consider that vows of chastity are more important that the protection of children AND if one were to believe that the issue is sex when, actually, the issue is abuse and its subsequent cover-up.

J Cosgrove
3 weeks 5 days ago

If they obeyed their vows of chastity there would have been no abuse. You are missing what may be the real problem.

Tatiana Durbak
4 weeks ago

Deleted, because inadvertent posting of duplicate comment.

Joanne O'Neill
4 weeks ago

Delay....some of us have a foot out the door over this....and Bergolio delays, again. In all charity, what is the problem in Rome?

Molly Roach
4 weeks ago

J Cosgrove, I think you've nailed it. The issue is sexually active priests, bishops and cardinals of every ilk--the consensual relationship crowd and the predatory stalker crowd. Due to the predators, the consensual crowd is paralyzed and cowed into silence. So the plan is still to "protect the reputation" of the church.

Daniel Montiel
4 weeks ago

🤡
Thanks for the laughs on this! Seeing that the “defend the Church at all costs” crowd is so darn desperate as to try - even for a second - to for-real *equate* the sexual abuse of minors, globally and institutionally and with non-negligible authoritative help and support at delaying and confusing temporal investigators with the LEGAL AND CONSENSUAL sexual peccadilloes of some tiny number of priests really shows us all how desperate your kind is to find *anyone* to blame other than the Church herself and the individuals who prized institutional pride over the protection of defenseless children left in their care.
The homophobes are proving what’s been *terribly* obvious for months/years — that they’d rather (try to) agitate against unoffending priests that happen to be gay rather than face the indifferent and soul-killing evil they intentionally left in place. *smh*
Good job, Bros.

Tatiana Durbak
4 weeks ago

The issue is abuse and the cover-up of abuse.

James Finley
4 weeks ago

This delay is utterly disheartening. Coming as it does at the very last minute, it seems to me to be very disrespectful. Are there any grown-ups attending the meeting?

Michael Barberi
4 weeks ago

Delaying the final vote until March and after the February Synod on Sexual Abuse is ok with me as long as the following happens:

> The Synod of Bishops will appoint an independent lay-lead committee to throughly investigate all the allegations and evidence in the PA Grand Jury Report, Vigano's letter and the entire McCarrick Scandal in particular how and why Pope JP II promoted him to Cardinal when many US Cardinals and Bishops knew about his sexual abuse as well as the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S.

Let's face it, the Bishops have demonstrated they cannot:
> adhere to sexual abuse guidelines,
> throughly investigate themselves,
> disclose all relevant information to independent investigators or to local law enforcement, or
> administer justice for those found guilty of sexual abuse, coverup or gross negligence.

Let's hope that the Synod on Sexual Abuse will institute significant changes in how allegations of sexual abuse is adequately reported, how priests and bishops are independently investigated and how they are held accountable. This must be done in an atmosphere of honesty, full transparency and a public reporting to Catholics.

Let's pray for Pope Francis and our Church.

Jean Kenny
4 weeks ago

Better yet,let's pray for the victims/survivors!

Reyanna Rice
4 weeks ago

Just a minor corrective about your terminology....The meeting in February is not a Synod. It is a meeting of all the heads of the various conferences of bishops from the entire world. It has not been called into session as a Synod like the one on youth that just ended. It hasn’t been given a title that I’m aware of. It is a unique meeting in that a meeting of the heads of all the conferences of Bishops in the world has never before been called by a pope. Also the Synod of Bishops does not have the kind of rule making authority you are referring to. The Congregation for Bishops does. It is a major dicastero if the Curia. The Synod of Bishops Office deals only on deciding on topics for Synods like bthe one just ended and facilitating their meeting. When a session of the Synod of Bishops is called into session, it is a consultative assembly. It is important to understand these terms as we move forward with a more synodal church. Synodality is a different concept than one of the working departments, the congregations and Pontifical councils, of the Curia.

Michael Barberi
3 weeks 6 days ago

Reyanna,
Thanks for reminding me that the February meeting is a meeting of all the heads of the various conferences of bishops and not a Synod of Bishops. The USCCB was ready to vote on at least two proposals that would adequately address the allegations in the PA Grand Jury Report, the Vigano Letter and in the McCarrick Scandal. It seems that Pope Francis, in calling for this special meeting of the Heads of all the Conferences of Bishops, wanted to get the input from this group on the way forward as this will likely be the way all sexual abuse allegations involving priests, bishops and cardinals will be handled. Perhaps he wants consistency. How this February meeting will handle allegations of gross negligence involving popes is a mystery (e.g., how Pope JP II promoted McCarrick to Cardinal when his sexual abuse was widely known). Nevertheless, I am cautiously optimistic.

STEPHEN BANKS MR
4 weeks ago

This new delay is discouraging, disheartening and unacceptable. The American Bishops need to step up and show the Vatican how important and urgent this issue is for the American Church. What did Jesus say about helping the children and those who hurt them? If the clergy cannot get this horrible problem of child abuse and cover-up resolved, then the laity must - and soon!

Jean Kenny
4 weeks ago

In DEED!

Charlie Cosgrove
4 weeks ago

More delay?? How can this be justified?? If the agenda is new to the Vatican, it can only suggest utter ineptness in supervision. If it isn't new, then it would seem to be a political ploy to head off some part of the agenda, and the most likely candidate would be the lay commission - either possibility suggests continuing maladministration/misconduct by the Vatican, You have to wonder do they ever ask themselves Why do people leave the church??

Daniel Montiel
4 weeks ago

The sad reality is that we have no dang idea *what* the Vatican is thinking.
To be honest, I don’t think that this move - as gd frustrating as it is! - is nothing but further effort to impede or derail accountability. I don’t think they or the Holy Father would be that dumb / tone-deaf.
But YE GODS I wish I knew what the delay was supposed to help accomplish.

Jean Kenny
4 weeks ago

Who besides Blase Cupich is speaking up?

Tim O'Leary
4 weeks ago

Cardinal Di Nardo is the most outspoken on this, not Cardinal Cupich (“It is clear the Holy See is taking the abuse crisis seriously,” Cardinal Cupich said.). I am amazed DiNardo said what he did "Cardinal DiNardo said he found Rome’s decision to be “quizzical” and suspected the Congregation for Bishops thought the U.S. bishops might be moving too quickly. “I’m wondering if they could turn the synodality back on us. My first reaction was: This didn’t seem so synodical; but maybe the Americans weren’t acting so synodically either. But it was quizzical to me when I saw it.” The Vatican is clearly mishandling this. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/cardinal-dinardo-vatican-directive…

Jean Kenny
4 weeks ago

Where is Joe Tobin's response?

Mark M
3 weeks 6 days ago

“Nighty night, baby”.

arthur mccaffrey
4 weeks ago

I believe Walmart is having a sale on millstones--anyone?

Will Niermeyer
4 weeks ago

I can understand the Pope's action here in terms of the universality of the Catholic Church. Apparently the one body of world Bishops will either speak for the entire Church de facto or present guidlines for each Dioceses to adopt. Not sure the last part is a very good idea. We need one statement on this issue that the entire Church hierarchy will follow.

Jim Spangler
4 weeks ago

I find today's news as disgusting as Cardinal McCarrick! When will Rome get the message. If ever there is a need for a Schism! I think Rome will never get the message, because they are tone deaf. Out of sight, out of mine. Homosexuality is a major problem, in the hierarchy, seminaries, and clerics. Many have their special male friends, and many have special female friends. Others have one night stands. In between there are still some good dedicated priests, and some good Bishops, but lack of transparency does not make this clarify the abuses caused by this ilk! The house needs to be swept clean, and new windows need to be placed in the house of cards, before it tumbles down. I am leaning more and more towards giving nothing in the collection plate, until the Church cleans up its act! Francis, you are going to have to talk about this problem or you will have nothing left to be in charge of. Holy Spirit come and cleanse Your Church, expose those who are guilty, punish those that have sinned, and breath a fresh breath upon Your Church!

Jean Kenny
4 weeks ago

Withold your $$$$ and your diocese will respond in pastoral and compassionate ways!

Robert Dowd
4 weeks ago

What does America magazine and their editorial board have to say about delaying the vote for another 3 months. Let us hear their position on this important vote. Do they go along with the Vatican or will they agree with the people in the pews to get it done now...... ?

Tom Hanrahan
4 weeks ago

And Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The expression may be inaccurate but the sense of indifference to a very real crisis is very accurate. The hope that was generated with Pope Francis' election is quickly fading. How empty do the churches have to be on Sunday morning before those at the Vatican understand the enormity of this tragedy.

karen oconnell
4 weeks ago

i read somewhere recently that the bishops had not distributed the plan/ papers etc until 'last week etc.' so-- i would say there was not enough time for the Vatican to absorb the docs. (no more boonedoggels allowed!)

Floyd Grabiel
4 weeks ago

This is just unbelievable. The Princes don't have a clue.

Kemper Wilkins
4 weeks ago

Why is DiNardo still even in his position. He's one of the culprits. "Quizzical" why it would happen? These guys have already squandered any moral authority they had. They are now totally done. I wouldn't buy a used car from any of them.

minls suka
3 weeks 6 days ago

Thank you for sharing this great post, I will regularly follow your next post.
slither io

Dominic Deus
3 weeks 6 days ago

Dominic Deus here,

I am reposting this from a piece I wrote today for the Catholic Spirit newspaper serving the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Many thanks to Tatiana for wrangling the commentators who keep trying to change subject matter to fit their agenda

"
Dominic Deus here,

I can't believe what I'm reading here. No matter how sincere the missive from Rome might seem, it's totally insincere and is nothing more than clerical manuring.* Manuring Church soil ready for planting NOW, left fallow by design, delaying for an entire year the harvest so desperately needed by the Faithful and the Church, especially the clerical one. I live in farm country and I know the smell of manure. It's basically bullshit.

Cardinal DiNardo may be making the best of a bad situation but calling this a "bump in the road" but in the name of Jesus Cardinal, do you really want to use that simile in a message to victims of clerical abuse? It's an insult.

If the USCCB is not up to diplomacy, then it should consult with someone who is. It would be dead easy to say,"Of course we respect the call from Rome but we will begin deliberations immediately, taking no votes on final positions until early next year."

Under no circumstances, allow the curial Church to destroy what small credibility the USCCB is struggling to plant and grow.

Dominic

*I meant to type "maneuvering" but got spell checked into a *much* better word. The Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways, sometimes throwing the bullshit card."

Anthony Rotz
3 weeks 3 days ago

Pope Francis says the Church is under attack by the devil. Somewhere I read that what is hidden will ultimately be revealed, so just maybe it is the light of Christ shining upon the Church that is revealing the filth and rot within. Every country, institution and family that ultimately fails, almost never fails from outside influence but from the evil that resides within. So, is it Satan attacking or Christ revealing? Should the Church follow in the footsteps of Jesus and choose mostly married men to lead?

Advertisement

The latest from america

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 26. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A recent disruption of the balance of power between a chief executive and the Fourth Estate was the Trump administration’s revocation of CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s White House “hard pass.” The action was met by unanimous opposition from the press.
Ellen K. BoegelDecember 10, 2018
How should Christians interpret and implement the Gospel mandate to bring the good news to all peoples and nations?
James T. KeaneDecember 10, 2018
I for one have never known a mind more brilliant, more beautiful, more serious, more playful. The energy behind it was immeasurable, and the capacity for love.
Mark Van DorenDecember 10, 2018
Our deepest desires are God’s desires dwelling within us: desires for peace, for love, for hope, and, most of all for God. So this Advent, this season of desire, ask God to reveal to you your deepest desires.
James Martin, S.J.December 10, 2018