Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, president of the US bishops’ conference, has been accused of abusing a woman more than 40 years ago. I have no idea whether the accusations are credible or not, as they were made just in time to get under the deadline for the diocese’s bankruptcy “proof of claims” process. The story wonders whether Skylstad will have to be removed from ministry under the provisions of the 2002 Dallas charter.
It is unclear under the reforms American bishops adopted in 2002 for responding to abuse claims whether Skylstad should temporarily step down while his case is being investigated.
What a silly question: Of course, he won’t be removed. As some of us have been pointing out since the charter was put in place, it doesn’t apply to bishops. There are no provisions for suspending a bishop who is accused of sexual misconduct or of covering up that misconduct. He could decide to step aside on his own decision. Or he can be removed from office altogether under the provisions of Canon 401 §2.
What should happen in such cases, if a credible accusation is made, is that his brother bishops should apply moral pressure for him to step aside temporarily until the situation is resolved. But then you’d have to find a group of US bishops with the moral capital to do so. I’m thinking that there aren’t enough of them. People in glass houses…