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Prelate: bishops’ credibility on abuse is ‘shredded’

Catholic World News - August 30, 2012

The August 30 issue of Origins includes “Help for Bishops in Rebuilding Trust,” a recent talk by Bishop Daniel Conlon of Joliet, chairman of the US bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.

“For the last few years I operated with the conviction that consistent implementation of the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,’ coupled with some decent publicity, would turn public opinion around,” he said at a conference of safe-environment and victims’ assistance coordinators. “I now know this was an illusion … I was wandering in a hall of mirrors.”

Stating that bishops’ “credibility on the subject of child abuse is shredded,” Bishop Conlon said that the lay diocesan employees “may have a better chance. People--in the Church, outside the Church, and hanging on the edge--need to know that real progress is being made” in the “daunting task of repairing the damage.”

Bishop Conlon also addressed the issues of the abuse of vulnerable adults, child pornography, and “boundary violations” that do not constitute abuse.

“Boundary violations by definition are not abuse and are not explicitly treated in the Charter,” he said, adding:

Whether boundary violations are covered explicitly in diocesan policies or not, they must be handled with finesse. For example, is administrative leave and public notice at the time of an investigation warranted? At what point is the violation considered sufficiently serious to render the lay person unsuitable for employment or the cleric unsuitable for ministry, at least with minors? In today’s climate, will the public revelation of a serious boundary violation leave any choice?

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 01, 2012 7:31 PM ET USA

    “For the last few years I operated with the conviction that consistent implementation of the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,’ coupled with some decent publicity, would turn public opinion around,” he said at a conference of safe-environment and victims’ assistance coordinators. “I now know this was an illusion … I was wandering in a hall of mirrors.”

  • Posted by: unum - Aug. 30, 2012 6:25 PM ET USA

    Not only did the bishops give themselves a pass, but they took away the civil rights of the clergy, making them subject to the loss of their reputations and their careers based on mere allegations of misconduct. So the U.S. Church not only has bishops who are not trusted, it is served by clergy who are demoralized and have little confidence in their leaders. The bishops have made the job of rebuilding trust even more difficult by their actions at Dallas.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Aug. 30, 2012 3:36 PM ET USA

    Homosexuality! What about divorce and subsequent remarriage? The Church in the United States is a veritable Pachyderm House of unaddressed human catastrophes. If their consciences are so tender, they should resign and allow someone with not so sordid a history to lead.

  • Posted by: Frodo1945 - Aug. 30, 2012 7:44 AM ET USA

    Very good talk and many excellent points. Their credibility is indeed shredded, not just on abuse but on all matters sexual -contraception, same sex marriage,...... Bishop Conlon also fails to address the 500 lb elephant in the room -homosexuality. The John jay study unprofessionally just wished it away. IMHO, the bishops still don't get it because they have given themselves a pass in this whole sordid affair. Taking even a little responsibility would help their credibility.

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