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Maybe the Irish bishops 'get it'

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Dec 23, 2009

Less than a month after the first major public report on the sex-abuse scandal in Dublin, two bishops have resigned

More than a decade after the first major public report on the sex-abuse scandal in the United States, one bishop has resigned.

(Here we refer not to bishops who resigned after being caught in misconduct, but only those who resigned after failing to curb the misconduct of others under their administrative supervision.)

So the scandal in Ireland-- thus far involving only one archdiocese, and generating only 3 weeks' worth of headlines-- has already prompted more episcopal resignations than the American crisis.

Why?

Was the report from Dublin more damaging that the American revelations? Definitely not. Aided by subpoena power, American sex-abuse victims have produced one "smoking gun" after another, demonstrating beyond question that bishops deliberately concealed evidence, lied to the faithful, and protected predators. Nothing in the Murphy Commission report surprised anyone who was familiar with the American experience. Some aspects of the devastation caused by the scandal in the US are a matter of public record: 7 dioceses in bankruptcy, thousands of parish churches and schools closed, over $3 billion paid out in legal damages. Other aspects-- the psychological damage to abuse victims, the spiritual damage to those who lost their faith-- are immeasurable.

Still, only one resignation. Although dozens of American bishops betrayed their faithful, disgraced their office, and showed judgment so obtuse that it is impossible to trust them again, they remain in authority. 

If the American bishops held themselves to the same standards that the Irish bishops appear to be setting, that famous meeting in Dallas in June 2002 could have been held in a much smaller hotel, because dozens of bishops would already have stepped down, and the American hierarchy would have been in the midst of the thorough house-cleaning this crisis called for. 

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