Bishop Wilton Gregory said on Friday, as he released the study of the scope of the Scandal over the past 50 years, “The terrible history recorded here today is history.” If ever there was a sign that the leaders among the US bishops don’t get it, here it is.
On the one hand, yes, it is history, if what you mean is that it is the record of past events. No one disputes that and it doesn’t make sense to say it as if you pointed at a glass of water and said, “That is wet.” On the other hand, what he likely meant is that what is recorded in the report is a record of the Church in the US the way it used to be, but isn’t today. If that’s what he’s saying, he’s wrong.
I say that because the root causes that led to the incidents of abuse over the past 50 years have not even begun to be addressed. Laicizing and removing priests who commit abuse is only treating the symptom, not curing the disease. What about the seminaries that failed to provide adequate formation, training, and screening for 30 years or more? What about the therapists and treatment centers that ignored Christian moral principles and declared known perverts “cured” and sent them back to ministry? What about bishops who ignored complaints and warning signs and outright abuse, putting the needs of individual priests above those of children and families? None of these problems has been addressed.
What of the stark accusations of misgovernance and spiritual malfeasance that the National Review Board leveled at the bishops as a corporate body? The bishops now will likely pat themselves on the back for a job well done, put the report on a shelf, and resolve to get back to business (you know, re-writing the Bible for inclusive language and the like).
I await the day a single American bishop stands up and says “Mea culpa.” I await the day his brother bishops stand up and say, “Seek forgiveness, brother, from God and His people, for the sins you have committed.” I think I’ll be waiting a long time.