The Diocese of Manchester has released its new policy on sexual misconduct. Like most of these new policies formulated by dioceses in the wake of the Scandal, they are a combination of the stunningly obvious—priests should live celibately—with difficult to imagine—priests should be reported if they comment on the physique of a minor. (The policy is here.)
What most of these new codes of conduct fail to address is the on of the real causes of the Scandal: the failure of bishops to address even the most obvious cases. It’s not that people didn’t report, for example, John Geoghan’s odd behavior or that they were never found out, it was that bishops did nothing about it when it was discovered. Bishop McCormack fails to mention that when he was a priest in Salem, Mass., when confronted by the allegations of people in his parish that Fr. Birmingham was molesting their kids, he dismissed their concerns and endeavored to hide the allegations.
Codes of conduct are all fine and good, but they are so much paper if those entrusted with their enforcement are negligent. But the bishops don’t want to address their own culpability as evidenced by their refusal to hold a plenary council at Bishop Bruskewitz’s suggestion. Instead they create more policy statements and questionable programs and declare mission accomplished.