The US Conference of Catholic Bishops met last week to consider, among other things, two important mutual accountability proposals that would begin to address the Catholic Church’s history of child molestation by members of the Catholic priesthood—some of whom have gone on to rise in the ranks of Church hierarchy. The proposals also were simple enough: one simply applied a zero-tolerance policy for sex abuse, and the other would have created an independent review board to investigate claims against bishops and refer credible cases directly to the Vatican. (I’ll elide the latter’s being a matter of having the weasel rule on alleged violations of the hen house.)
Then Pope Francis told them to sit down and shut up. Which they meekly did, without action on those proposals.
What to make of these bishops’ timidity? One conclusion is that fealty to a Church prince is more important than protecting our children.
Here’s Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the San Francisco Archdiocese on the matter:
We’ve heard how important it is to listen to our people.
Sure. But what’s the value of “listening” if you won’t act on their concerns? Or better, knowing these things are happening, act on your own initiative, not needing to have the concerns of the parents surfaced first as though if they don’t speak up, there’s no problem?
How will we discriminate your “listening” from your simply hearing a noisily empty cacophony?
Do we need an American Catholicism separate from the Vatican’s Catholicism, loosely (perhaps very loosely) analogous to the Church of England’s separation from the Vatican? One that keeps (most of) the foundational tenets of Catholicism, but that also holds the safety of children sacred?
After all, the Church of England was born of a concern for children, too, albeit from a different direction.