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Catholic News ServiceAugust 01, 2018
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is seen June 13 at the opening of the bishops' annual spring assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick "will rightly face" a Vatican canonical process regarding sexual abuse allegations against him, but the U.S. Catholic Church must take steps to respond to church leaders' "moral failures of judgment," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The accusations against Archbishop McCarrick, a former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington, "reveal a grievous moral failure within the church," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston.

"They cause bishops anger, sadness, and shame; I know they do in me," he said in an Aug. 1 statement. "They compel bishops to ask, as I do, what more could have been done to protect the people of God. Both the abuses themselves, and the fact that they have remained undisclosed for decades, have caused great harm to people's lives and represent grave moral failures of judgment on the part of church leaders."

To determine a course of action for the USCCB to take, Cardinal DiNardo said he convened the bishops' Executive Committee.

"This meeting was the first of many among bishops that will extend into our Administrative Committee meeting in September and our general assembly in November," he explained. "All of these discussions will be oriented toward discerning the right course of action for the USCCB."

Such work will "take some time," but he laid out four points to be acted upon immediately:

-- He encouraged each bishop in their diocese "to respond with compassion and justice to anyone who has been sexually abused or harassed by anyone in the church. We should do whatever we can to accompany them."

-- He urged anyone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment by anyone in the church to come forward. "Where the incident may rise to the level of a crime, please also contact local law enforcement."

-- The USCCB "will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick's conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the conference will advocate with those who do have the authority. One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter."

-- "Finally, we bishops recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins."

Cardinal DiNardo said the failures of judgment by church leaders in the case of Archbishop McCarrick "raise serious questions."

"Why weren't these allegations of sins against chastity and human dignity disclosed when they were first brought to church officials?" he asked. "Why wasn't this egregious situation addressed decades sooner and with justice? What must our seminaries do to protect the freedom to discern a priestly vocation without being subject to misuse of power?"

In conclusion, he asked all to "pray for God's wisdom and strength for renewal as we follow St. Paul's instruction: 'Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.'"

On July 28, Pope Francis accepted the resignation from the College of Cardinals of then-Cardinal McCarrick and ordered him to maintain "a life of prayer and penance" until a canonical trial examines accusations that he sexually abused minors.

[Explore America's in-depth coverage of Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church.]

In late June, the 88-year-old prelate said he would no longer exercise any public ministry "in obedience" to the Vatican after an allegation he abused a teenager 47 years ago in the Archdiocese of New York was found credible. The cardinal has said he is innocent.

In the weeks that followed the announcement, another man came forward claiming he was abused as a child by Archbishop McCarrick, and several former seminarians have spoken out about being sexually harassed by the cardinal at a beach house he had. In other developments, two New Jersey dioceses where he served in the 1980s and 1990s said settlements had been reached some years before in a couple of cases of abuse claims made against him.

He was the founding bishop of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, in 1981, then headed the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, before being named to Washington in 2001.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Michael Barberi
5 years 8 months ago

I am disappointed with this article. Cardinal DiNardo is not naive or ignorant. He knows full well the answers to his questions, like why did this happen, et al.

The Church needs to acknowledge that it is the culture in our Church that is one of the root causes for allowing these crimes of sexual abuse and harassment to have taken place, have been swept under the rug and hidden without justice and right action for many decades. I find the calling on bishops for adhering and enforcing the actions suggested is a little disingenuous. These are the actions that anyone in authority in the Church should have been doing. Notice that there is no admittance that sexual abuse, coverup and inaction of justice is an imbedded evil caused by a decades-long culture of clericalism. It seems like everyone was "shocked" that this has happened. I say take off the blinders.

Let's pray that an epiphany will occur and our Church will reform itself. It will take decades to restore the credibility of the hierarchy and the belief that true reform will emerge.

Ivan But
5 years 8 months ago

I agree that the culture in our Church is part of the problem. It needs policy, process, and structure to change the system that eventually transforms the culture. It takes leadership to make it happen. Mishandling of sexual abuse points to a bigger crisis of our church: leadership crisis.

Tim O'Leary
5 years 8 months ago

I think this is a very good approach, provided that it does indeed result in a full investigation done rapidly. I have seen the responses from various US Cardinals/bishops, including those who knew McCarrick very well, yet say categorically they had not heard anything about the abuse of seminarians, etc. While this is surprising to me, if it occurred, it means the settlements in Newark stayed in Newark. It means McCarrick was very cunning in his handling of information. But, there have got to be some very well-placed people who knew and either looked the other way or, God-forbid, thought this kind of sexual activity was not a grave breach of both canon law and possibly civil law. So, we need a deep investigation of who knew what, when they knew it, what they did with the information. My working assumption at present (always subject to revision with more detail) is that there was a cabal of supporters and enablers, just like Weinstein or Spacey or Moonves or a myriad of other cases. In McCarrick's case, is there a gay lobby in the church or not? We need to know. More heads need to roll. As to settlements, stop doing this! This is a legal game that saves money at the expense of getting the whole truth out, even when one is innocent!

Robert robtlongo
5 years 8 months ago

Earlier this year, I was proud to learn that the Erie Diocese that hosted the seminary I attended was being transparent and exposing priests involved in sexual abuse in the Erie Diocese. I was saddend to learn of a priest on the list, who I regarded as one of the best teachers throughout my formal education, but it is time that bishops and cardinals find the courage to disrupt an unholy history of protection & cover-ups. Coincidentally, I would have been a fellow student of Cardinal DiNardo if I had chosen to attend another seminary in my hometown I am encouraged and hope there is substantive action behind his strong words. The victims of these perpetrators and their cover-up accomplices deserve much overdo peace & justice.

Randal Agostini
5 years 8 months ago

It would seem as though the dam is breaking and nobody knows the consequences. Unfortunately there is little in The New Testament that confronts an issue that has been with us since the beginning of time. It has always been the unspoken sin, hidden by shame. In the end there is only one resolution that is still nowhere in sight - mea culpa. There is no satisfaction to be gained from a human institution that constructs a new process, unless it exposes it's guilt and begs forgiveness. We, those that are harmed, are the only ones that can forgive and the only way that can happen is when the guilty seek contrition.

Anna Mathew
5 years 8 months ago

The Cardinals appear to have a specific motivation to back their decisions. Last time it was on the grounds that they needed to center around Europe Buy Custom assignment Online apparently they have concentrated on Europe enough. The Pope settled on some Cardinal decisions which would recommend he needed to change the concentration to some other piece of the world or whatever is left of the world.

Lisa Weber
5 years 8 months ago

The church not only needs to address the moral failures of its leaders, it needs to look honestly at how it chooses bishops. The church is obviously failing in some of its choices of bishops. In a negative sense, the church needs to more carefully screen out men who do not adhere to their vow of chastity or are otherwise morally deficient. In a positive sense, the church needs to look more closely and honestly at the attributes it wants in bishops. Does holiness count? Or are bishops chosen because their families are wealthy or politically powerful? Are bishops chosen for their ability to schmooze with those further up the hierarchy? Does the laity have any say in the process of nominating and choosing bishops? If bishops are chosen for any reason other than holiness and ability to lead, the church will suffer because of less-than-optimal leadership.

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