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a rare agreement -2-

By Fr. Wilson (articles ) | Aug 05, 2003

Phil, it seems to me that among the things revealed in the unfolding of the sexual abuse scandal and its aftermath is that, in the minds of many bishops, the episcopate functions in a kind of parallel universe. A diocese reaches a $100,000.00 settlement with a married, male diocesan employee over sexual harassment charges against the diocesan bishop... but that bishop continues to serve to this day (indeed, was one of those listed at that confab of Catholic leaders discussing the Situation at the JPII Cultural Center last month). An Archdiocese forks over a $450,000.00 payoff, and its Archbishop continues in office... until the payee decides to go public (the Auxiliary who authorized that payoff remains in office to this day)

Another bishop seriously contributed to the Boston mess as personnel director (including enabling one of the most serious offenders to serve on the West coast), was transferred to a diocese where, SIX MONTHS into the public national scandal, he knowingly appointed a compromised priest to a pastorate (and DEFENDED the appointment because the teen Father was involved with was 18, thus not covered by the sexual abuse of minors policy of the diocese), has been the object of much criticism and dismay... yet that bishop continues to serve to this day as diocesan.

Most of the bishops apparently support a policy whereby accused priests are immediately removed from service and not returned to ministry until exonerated... but bishops who have sadly failed in their crucial duty of oversight for the good of the Church, and even, in some cases, have been personally compromised, continue in office as long as possible.

And let us not lose sight of the broader picture. Incontestably, the past forty years have been "decidedly unfavorable" for Catholicism, to use Cardinal Ratzinger's phrase. The clergy sexual abuse scandal AND the failure of episcopal governance it unmasked are not so much The Crisis, as symptoms of a far, far broader crisis in Catholicism manifesting itself in at least twelve MAJOR, UNMISTAKEABLE areas of Church life (priesthood/seminaries, religious life, family life, catechesis, liturgy, colleges and universities...).

After all these years, even after the past twenty months, we have yet to hear from the Bishops an expression of awareness that, in the wider sense, we are in crisis as a Church. Lay commentators and some clergy commentators have been pointing out this Crisis for decades, and still wait to hear that the bishops recognize its existence. Would it be so unthinkable for a bishop, or a few bishops, to say, 'I can so clearly see that another hand is needed at the helm, as I've done far less than I'd have wished to address the real problems of the Church, and I've asked the Holy Father to provide for you the vigorous new leadership you need."

That would be a great service to the Church, simply in that it would publicly point to the wider crisis we've been denying for four decades with our slogan of "Renewal." And it would be refreshing to see a bishop take such a step out of sincere concern for the good of the Church.

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