As further revelations emerge in the case of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's sexual abuse, not only…
Editorial: Let the light in
In the wake of the devastating Aug. 14 grand jury report, documenting over seven decades of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up in six Pennsylvania dioceses over a span of seven decades, one of the bishops named in the report, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, took action. Bishop of Harrisburg from 2004-09, Bishop Rhoades — now bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, and chairman of the board of Our Sunday Visitor — announced that he would be making public the names of all those previously credibly accused of abuse, making his diocese the latest of just over 40 (out of nearly 200) dioceses to take such action.
Releasing the names of all credibly accused priests and religious is an important step forward in the Church’s cleansing and a critical step if the Church, as an institution, is ever to regain its trustworthiness and credibility. Such transparency is far preferable to having the names extracted through years of grand jury testimony. Dioceses would do well to make this practice the norm.
The situation the Church finds itself in has many sources, originating both within the Church and within the broader culture. Catholics can take some comfort in the profound progress made since the initial revelations of 2002 and the subsequent adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a move that has largely prevented new instances of abuse and made reporting and permanent removal of offenders standard practice.
“On the whole, the 2002 Charter did move things in the right direction,” the Pennsylvania grand jury report observed.
We can even take comfort in the fact that the Church is now poised to cover the distance it didn’t at the start of the millennium — to hold leaders fully accountable, to involve laypeople in manners affecting the wellbeing of the Church, and to break down the structures that enabled this problem to fester in the first place. If ever there were a time to cry, “let the light in,” it is now.
Pope Francis has only to look at a map to see the global scope of the reckoning the Church faces. Fallout from abuse touches Chile, Ireland, Australia and elsewhere. The adoption of half-measures and the temptation to move on before the problem has been fully addressed calls to mind the warning of the pope at the close of the 2014 Synod of Bishops on the family, when he said the temptation of “deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.”
In the United States, we should once again lead by example, as we did with the 2002 Charter, and get at this issue’s roots. In his Aug. 16 statement, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the USCCB, invited an apostolic visitation to investigate the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick — particularly how the disgraced ex-cardinal was able to rise through the U.S. hierarchy, despite persistent rumors of his behavior even with his own seminarians. That will be one step. Where the bishops themselves go in terms of addressing the cultures of presbyterates, seminaries and parishes will depend in part on laypeople continuing to declare that the status quo is not acceptable.
“Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated,” Pope Francis said in his Aug. 20 letter “to the People of God,” in the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report. The laity, including those of us in lay-led Church apostolates, should embrace this mission and see to making it so.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young