Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's Time The USCCB Insisted On Some Good Ole Fashioned Accountability In It's Membership

Seems certain members of the USCCB also subscribe to the addition of a fourth monkey, especially if they happen to be Cardinal Archbishops.

According to the blog Whispers in the Loggia, and Rocco Palma, it seems at least one American bishop is beginning to see the light in the wake of the Philadelphia suspensions.  This bishop is still anonymous, but even a minuscule glimmer of light is better than no light at all.

 "Now The Scandal Is Amplified Ten-Fold"

And so, on this Ash Wednesday, the fallout begins.... Again.

In the wake of the largest single suspension of priests in the history of the Stateside church, a bishop on these shores -- indeed, a B16 appointee -- sent the following impressions:
I am amazed at what is happening in Philly. For the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to have this many priests who have had an allegation against them still in active ministry years later leads me to believe that someone made the decision somewhere along the road to allow this.

Instead of being overly cautious to protect children from any possible further harm and the church from further scandal, they let these guys back into ministry. Now the scandal is amplified ten-fold because it looks like it is the same old church and the same old leadership doing what it has always done in the past.  (Maybe that's because it is the same old leadership doing what it has always done in the past.)

What were they thinking? In this day and age, this stuff never stays hidden. And it shouldn't. This is a tragedy for the people, priests, and the church of Philadelphia, all because someone did not exercise due diligence and good judgment.  (It's a tragedy for the entire Church.)

Sometimes I think that, when we talk about the "new evangelization," we need to start with evangelizing those of us in leadership first.  (Lots of us  have said this very thing.)

The more I think about this latest example of clerical messmanagement in Philadelphia, the madder I get.  My anger is mostly the product of my frustration.  This situation was completely predictable the minute the Dallas Charter was written and the USCCB had exempted themselves from any of it's clauses and any accountability to each other.  For any bishop who so desired, the Dallas Charter was mostly smoke and mirrors.  Since 2004 the US has seen four of it's Cardinals ignore the Charter when it so pleased them:  George, Mahoney, Bevilaqua, and Rigali.  In all three Archdioceses represented by these four men, the so called review boards were either peopled with too many syncophants, or in the case of George, ignored.  This is easy to do when these boards are only advisory.

It's pretty obvious that in a system which makes these men sole authority figures answerable only to a Vatican more interested in protecting the office than holding any of the office holders accountable, Catholics across the globe can expect more Philadelphias.  Sadder yet, are the rogue bishops like Bruskewitz in Lincoln, Nebraska.  A man who has spawned management clones like Vasa of Santa Rosa and Olmsted of Phoenix.  These are men who truly do believe they answer only to their own version of God while insisting on a form of obedience that makes them God.  

The USCCB is in very sad shape.  For all practical purposes it might just as well disband and stop wasting money pretending it has any meaningful authority or usefulness.  The Vatican certainly doesn't take it very seriously except for financial reasons.  That was proven by the way it was completely over ridden over the new Mass translation.  American Catholics can't take it seriously because it's now very obvious bishops will do precisely what bishops want to do even with something that has as high a profile as the Dallas Charter.  Then there is the whole issue of the highest profile bishops appearing to be blatantly in bed with right wing political forces.  I don't know why we even bother talking about unity or Catholic identity when those two things are at the whim of every individual bishop.

I'd love to see Archbishop Dolan do something constructive, like consult with his fellow bishops about some sort of meaningful censure of Rigali, Mahony, and George.  Other professional organizations have no problem with such a concept.  Even if it was only symbolic it would at least send a message to the Vatican that American Catholicism can not take these continual never ending scandals involving the protection and cover up of clerical abusers while these bishops get off scot free.  Somehow I doubt Dolan has the courage needed for this kind of leadership, but it would be interesting to see if the rest of the USCCB is getting the message that the current circus can't continue.  But at least we know at least one does.


  1. I wasn't aware of the USCCB's advice on the new English translation. Could you provide a link, or word of explanation please?



  2. In 1992 Archbishop Pilarczyk, then-President of NCCB/USCC, wrote a letter to Fr. Tom Doyle about the 1985 abuse report Doyle had co-authored for US bishops. A SHORT HISTORY ... (p.20) He dismissively pointed out that the report contributed nothing new since the bishops had already known and done so much (and other institutions were just as bad in child sexual abuse). Ten years later, Boston erupted.
    In hindsight, Dallas was a coverup better coordinated than usual. The challenge for the bishops was to focus public attention on undeniable evil-doers, the abusers, which they did while minimizing the spotlight on the principals who facilitated, concealed, and managed the coast-to-coast scourge. For a while, they had some success, and their strategy of delay, obscure, and lobby continues.
    Considering US experience since 1985, 1992, and last week, it is time to stop naively hoping the hierarchy will somehow reverse their strategy in order to clean up their corruption. Civil Philadelphia (and Ireland) need to become the models for public response. As you note, "it is the same old.…". One anonymous bishop isn't likely to reverse a long-standing tradition. The fact that his lonely comment is noteworthy in 2011 says as much as his message does.

  3. Although Thomist has been commenting in another thread I immediately thought of him upon reading this piece.

    If Thomist is one of those traditional, pray, pay and obey Catholics he'd wonder why you are making this fuss. After all you completely misinterpreted Cardinal George's direct statement that applied literally and only to the issue of big saints and little saints.

    Last month the former president of the USCCB, Cardinal George, received an award from Legatus for his pro-life work. One of the other honorees was George W. Bush. Cardinal George didn't refuse the award. He didn't protest GWB's established record as a killer. (Bush signed the orders to execute 152 prisoners while Governor or Texas.) He didn't lead a protest against GWB's very presence on the grounds. He might have because Bush is responsible for two wars that have ultimately left hundreds of thousands dead and the Treasury depleted.

    But that's just fine in Republican Cardinal George's morally nuanced world. He just can't speak out on any issue of morality without the false moral equivalency of how much everything else pales compared to abortion. IOKIYAR


  4. P2P-good observation. Unfortunately, being a "good Catholic" to the bishops is always about "pray, pay and obey," and morality is only about sex and what one does or does not do. Apparently treating others unfairly, greed, and covering up for clerical abusers do not qualify as sins as far as the bishops are concerned.

  5. Colleen, I saw you today at the Bagel Co. downtown, or rather, I believe you say me. Yet you turned your head away so you wouldn't have to look at me directly. How sad that the author of "Enlightened Catholicism" treats a former friend in such a fashion.

  6. Well said, Colleen. Unfortunately, there is no assured accountability anywhere within the Church for prelates or priests. Canon Law is routinely ignored whenever it suits the Church. Hierarchs can do as they please and even when caught, they know they are assured a comfortable lifestyle until they die.

  7. Your right Betty that is until civil society puts one of them in jail and people then may come to realisze that these men are no different saints or sinners than the rest. It is time to do that. How about beginning in Los Angeles!