I’m perplexed, too, but not for the same reason. The Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday published a joint expose on all the US bishops who have failed to respond adequately to sexual misconduct in their dioceses and they say they’re perplexed. Meanwhile, Cardinal Seán is also perplexed too.
More than 130 bishops – almost one-third of all living bishops – have been accused during their careers of failing to adequately respond to sexual misconduct in their dioceses, according to an examination of thousands of court records, media reports, and interviews with church officials, victims, and attorneys.
“I’m shocked by that number,’’ O’Malley said in an interview at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, responding to the two organizations’ report. “It raises a lot of questions in my mind.’’
As I said, I’m perplexed, but not that 130 of the living bishops (note: that includes retired bishops) have themselves failed to respond adequately. It’s that this is news to anyone.
Because back in 2002 when the Dallas charter was first advanced in the midst of the explosion of the Scandal, both Phil Lawler and I were pointing out that while the charter focused on the tiny percentage of all priests who ever abused a child, the bishops at the time (and ever since) failed to act against the bishops who shuffled them about and ignored the complaints of victims and hushed up lawsuits and paid off families under secrecy shields and all the rest.
In fact, if anything the problem is much less worse because at the time it wasn’t one-third of living bishops who were culpable, but two-thirds of bishops. But time and the Holy Spirit have winnowed that number down through the ultimate means of having them die off.
In 2002, we were told that there was nothing the US bishops’ conference could do. After all, only the pope had the means to impose a sanction or strip faculties from a bishop, not other bishops. Yet, here we are 16 years later and suddenly we now have a way to deal with them. What’s changed?
Back then, the bishops patted themselves on the back for a job well done and we moved on to rebuild. But that wasn’t the end. In the past year, we’ve had the damning and sickening Pennsylvania grand jury report, we had the summer of McCarrick and Wuerl, we have 13 attorneys general opening investigations, and we have yet more hemorrhaging of parishioners from the pews and dollars from collections.
And so now we come back to the problem and we’re shocked, shocked that no one dealt with these problem bishops in 2002. I’m sorry, but I have a hard time mustering up the shock. I’m just sitting here saying welcome to reality. Finally.