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Cardinal Daniel DiNardo listens to a reporter's question during a news conference during the USCCB's annual fall meeting, in Baltimore in November. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, file)Cardinal Daniel DiNardo listens to a reporter's question during a news conference during the USCCB's annual fall meeting, in Baltimore in November. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, file)

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican blocked U.S. bishops from taking measures to address the clergy sex abuse scandal because U.S. church leaders didn't discuss the legally problematic proposals with the Holy See enough beforehand, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 11 letter from the Vatican's Cardinal Marc Ouellet provides the primary reason that Rome balked at the measures that were to be voted on by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its Nov. 12-14 assembly. The blocked vote stunned abuse survivors and other Catholics who were demanding action from U.S. bishops to address clergy sex abuse and cover-up.

Ouellet's letter undermines the version of events provided by the conference president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. It could also provide fodder for questions this week during a spiritual retreat of U.S. bishops, dedicated to the abuse crisis, that opens Wednesday in Chicago.

They may want to know why the draft proposals from the U.S. only arrived at the Vatican on Nov. 8, four days before the U.S. bishops' meeting began. While the Vatican is known for its slow pace, even the speediest bureaucracy would have found it difficult to review and approve sensitive legal documents over a long weekend.

"Considering the nature and scope of the documents being proposed by the (conference), I believe it would have been beneficial to have allowed for more time to consult with this and other congregations with competence over the ministry and discipline of bishops," Ouellet wrote to DiNardo. Such back-and-forth, he wrote, would have allowed the documents to "properly mature."

While the Vatican is known for its slow pace, even the speediest bureaucracy would have found it difficult to review and approve sensitive legal documents over a long weekend.

The main goal of the U.S. bishops' fall meeting had been to approve a code of conduct for bishops and create a lay-led commission to receive complaints against them. The measures were a crisis response to the scandal over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, once a senior American cleric who is now accused of molesting minors and adults, and new revelations of old sex abuse cases and their cover-up in Pennsylvania.

DiNardo stunned the bishops when he opened the assembly Nov. 12 by announcing that "at the insistence of the Holy See" the bishops would not be voting on the measures after all. He said the Vatican wanted them to delay a vote until after Francis hosts a global summit in February on preventing sex abuse by priests.

While DiNardo blamed the Vatican, the letter from Ouellet suggests that the Vatican felt that DiNardo had tried to pull a fast one by intentionally withholding legally problematic texts until the last minute. That the Vatican would have wanted a say in crafting the texts is not surprising, given the Holy See alone has exclusive authority to investigate and discipline problem bishops.

"While fully aware that a bishops' conference enjoys a rightful autonomy ... to discuss and eventually approve measures that are within the conference's powers, the conference's work must always be integrated within the hierarchical structure and universal law of the church," Ouellet wrote.

In a statement Tuesday to The Associated Press, DiNardo characterized the disconnect as a misunderstanding. He said he assumed the Vatican would have had a chance to "review and offer adjustments" to the measures after the U.S. bishops approved them, not before. He insisted that U.S. bishops were not trying to appropriate Vatican powers for themselves.

The letter from Ouellet suggests that the Vatican felt that DiNardo had tried to pull a fast one by intentionally withholding legally problematic texts until the last minute.

"It is now clear there were different expectations on the bishops conference's part and Rome's part that may have affected the understanding of these proposals," DiNardo said in a statement. "From our perspective, they were designed to stop short of where the authority of the Holy See began."

The U.S. strategy, it seems, was to avoid drawn-out negotiations before the vote so the U.S. bishops could present the Vatican with documents after the fact. The U.S. bishops presumably wanted to avoid the problematic back-and-forth that happened in 2002 when U.S. bishops approved a "one strike and you're out" policy against abusive priests.

DiNardo, in his statement to the AP, said he had shared the "content and direction" of the proposals with multiple Vatican offices in October and went ahead and drafted the final version of the proposal on investigating bishops after encountering no opposition.

"We had not planned, nor had the Holy See made a request, to share the texts prior to the body of bishops having had an opportunity to amend them," he said.

During a Nov. 12 press conference, DiNardo was asked when the Vatican was actually consulted about the measures. He replied the texts were finalized Oct. 30 and that the delay in finishing them might have been a problem.

"So it's not surprising, on one level, that people would be catching their breath, perhaps even in Rome," he told reporters. DiNardo also acknowledged, when pressed by a reporter, that the texts themselves had some legal problems, though he downplayed the severity of them.

"There were some points in one or two of the documents where the canon law needed further precision," he said.
In his statement to AP, DiNardo said he had told Ouellet that failing to vote on the texts "would prove a great disappointment to the faithful, who were expecting their bishops to take just action. Though there were canonical precisions mentioned, the emphasis seemed to be on delaying votes and not wanting to get ahead of the February meeting of episcopal conference presidents," he said.

Ouellet did indeed cite the February meeting in his letter, saying any document "should incorporate the input and fruits of the college of bishops' work of common discernment."

But the February summit was announced on Sept. 13. If that were the primary reason for Ouellet's demand to scrap the vote, he could have communicated that to DiNardo sooner.

Instead, Ouellet's demand came after he finally read what U.S. bishops were preparing to vote on.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Tim O'Leary
5 years 1 month ago

One wonders what the motive was for this article, on the eve of a retreat. It has a terribly misleading title ("Vatican letter undermines U.S. cardinal on abuse") as there is no evidence of any undermining by either side. It is also clear from Cardinal DiNardo's public statements at the time, that it was only after the Vatican saw the details that they wanted the input from the Feb discussion. So, it seems clear there was some difference of opinion on balancing the speed of the reforms with their details - something that all people of good will could disagree on. The spin of this article seems to have some other agenda, including some tangential attempt to denigrate the US bishops (esp. DiNardo) as they head to a retreat.

Paul Mclaughlin
5 years 1 month ago

Given the purpose of the document and its scope it seems that DiNardo expected to much flexibility from Rome and put Rome in a corner that it wasn’t go to stay very long. He should have known better.

But who dropped the dime on DiNardo? Clearly, he doesn’t have friends in ROme any longer he can call on - aka Burke et al. On the other hand, he is not an impressive fellow.

Nancy D.
5 years 1 month ago

“Instead, Ouellet's demand came after he finally read what U.S. bishops were preparing to vote on.”

Christ’s teaching, in regards to sexual morality, which serves out of respect for the inherent Dignity of every beloved son and daughter, cannot evolve, thus we can know through both Faith and reason, that in regards to conserving Christ’s teaching on sexual morality, a Faithful Bishop’s discernment will reflect The Word of God, not deny Him.

Aiden N
5 years 1 month ago

DiNardo has no integrity. the AP has exposed him as a liar, an opportunist and as a clericalist. Cdl Ouelette is an angel and he has addressed DInardo in the most charitable terms. DiNardo in turn is all about CYA. The US Bishops have no credibility and DiNardo is that face. A retreat isnt going to do any good to DiNardo’s black dark soul. Fire him and the rest of the US Bishops

Tim O'Leary
5 years 1 month ago

Aiden - I have no issue with Cardinal Ouelette (I admire much of what he writes). The problem with the AP article above is its strange bias against Cardinal DiNardo, unsubstantiated by the quotes from the letter exchange. Sounds like you are comfortable with trial by media, given your quotes below. But, even worse, you feel comfortable condemning DiNardo's soul ("black dark soul") while canonizing Ouelette ("an angel"). I think that disqualifies you from any semblance of objectivity or justice.

Aiden N
5 years 1 month ago

Victims of abuse by priests under DiNardo in Iowa and Houston deserve justice. Pity your concern is for covering up Dinardo, Vigano, et al draped in clericalism but alas predictable.

Tim O'Leary
5 years 1 month ago

Aiden - I have no interest in covering up anything. But, you seem to think any call for a proper investigation to determine fault is a cover-up. And, you are attacking Vigano as well. But, the essence of covering up is to attack a whistleblower. You seem to be hiding behind another clerical skirt.

Aiden N
5 years 1 month ago

“DiNardo, currently the archbishop of Galveston-Houston, is accused of covering up abuse cases in both Iowa and Texas. According to a statement released by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), DiNardo helped conceal admitted abuse by the Rev. Jerome Coyle and allegations against the Rev. George B. McFadden while serving as bishop of Sioux City from 1997 to 2004.

"SNAP believes that the Cardinal’s role in covering up abuse in both Sioux City and Houston make him unfit to lead the USCCB," SNAP said in the statement. If law enforcement seized records from the Sioux City diocese, "they would find that additional crimes were concealed" by DiNardo and others, the statement read. The group first called for DiNardo's resignation in November.

In Houston, DiNardo is accused of dismissing allegations against the Rev. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez, who was charged in September with four counts of indecency with a child. La Rosa-Lopez has denied the allegations, according to the archdiocese.”

Aiden N
5 years 1 month ago

“DiNardo was one in a series of Sioux City bishops who failed to reveal the Rev. Jerry Coyle’s admission in 1986 that he had abused approximately 50 junior high and high school boys over 20 years in several Iowa parishes. The diocese kept Coyle’s admission secret until this fall, when the Associated Press revealed Coyle’s history.

Coyle had self-reported to then-Bishop Lawrence Soens in 1986. Soens, who has since been accused of sexual abuse himself, removed Coyle from active ministry and sent him to New Mexico for treatment at the time. But neither Soens nor his successors, including DiNardo, reported Coyle to law enforcement or told parishioners.

The Sioux City Diocese only admitted it in October of this year, when the AP was poised to reveal the cover-up — and the fact that the diocese had helped Coyle move this year from New Mexico into a home across the street from a Catholic school in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

DiNardo was bishop of Sioux City from 1998 to 2004. He was named co-adjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston in 2004, and took over that Texas archdiocese in 2006.”

Aiden N
5 years 1 month ago

“SNAP President Calls for the Resignation of Former Sioux City Bishop, Daniel DiNardo, as Head of US Conference of Catholic Bishops”

“According to media reports, the Diocese of Sioux City concealed for decades the identity of a priest who disclosed to Church officials in 1986 that he had abused dozens of Iowa boys. Cardinal DiNardo was among the bishops that hid Fr. Jerome Coyle’s admission from the public. None of the prelates, including the Cardinal, reached out to those who may have been harmed by Fr. Coyle.

Similarly, the Cardinal and other Sioux City bishops also failed to notify their flock about multiple allegations of abuse by Fr. George B. McFadden. SNAP believes that if law enforcement would seize the records of the Sioux City Diocese, they would find that additional crimes were concealed by Cardinal DiNardo and others. “

Tim O'Leary
5 years 1 month ago

I'm all for having "law enforcement" seize the records of the Sioux City Diocese if they are willing to do an investigation and not just a press conference. While they are at it, they should seize the files of SNAP, since SNAP claims to have evidence about this for decades and somehow never got this evidence to law enforcement. They should also see how much money SNAP got from the legal firms who made off with settlement money from the various dioceses they got in their many shakedowns. See here http://www.nbcnews.com/id/6732442/ns/us_news/t/clergy-abuse-support-group-ignites-debate/#.WKvWvPkrKM8 and https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/federal-lawsuit-filed-by-st-louis-priest-cleared-of-child/article_b13a09e4-e683-56ad-a5b6-0ff5bacbd667.html

Gay Timothy O'Dreary
5 years 1 month ago

Tim you are a shill for heretics and clericalists like Vigano. How often do you suck his cock as the faggot that you are? no wonder you troll these forums 24/7 because youre single, gay and have no family. Your sanctimony is balanced by the facts of you being pathetic, have a personality disorder and have a miserable meaningless existence. LOLOLOLOL 🖕🏾🖕🏾🖕🏾

Tim O'Leary
5 years 1 month ago

KC - your outburst betrays your obsession and your gay politics. You must be reacting to your reflection in the mirror. I couldn't stand it either, so you have my sympathy. Pray that God rescues you.

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