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Just how independent would this committee be?

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 10, 2018

Bishop Robert Barron has added his own proposal to the mounting pile. He proposes that the US bishops “petition the Holy Father to form a team, made up mostly of faithful lay Catholics skilled in forensic investigation, and to empower them to have access to all of the relevant documentation and financial records.” That’s a step in the right direction; at least he recognizes that the bishops must submit to outside investigators if they want to restore their credibility. Nevertheless...

First, the Barron proposal—a variation on the theme originally introduced by Bishop Scharfenberger has two serious practical problems, as I’ve noted before:

  1. Who names the members of this panel? If they’re chosen by the body of bishops—the group they’re investigating—how independent can they be?
  2. How could this group be assured of the bishops’ cooperation? There’s only one precedent, and it’s not encouraging. Ask Governor Keating.

But Bishop Barron introduces another difficulty in putting forward his proposal:

So lots of commentators—left, center, and right—have chimed in to say that the real cause of the McCarrick disaster is, take your pick, the ignoring of Humanae vitae, priestly celibacy, rampant homosexuality in the Church, the mistreatment of homosexuals, the sexual revolution, etc. Mind you, I’m not saying for a moment that these aren’t important considerations and that some of the suggestions might not have real merit. But I am saying that launching into a consideration of these matters that we have been debating for decades and that will certainly not admit of an easy adjudication amounts right now to a distraction.

A distraction from what? If one of those matters really is the fundamental cause, then it must be discussed. Bishop Barron’s list of “distractions” could, unfortunately, be taken as a list of subjects that would be taken off the table before the independent committee began its work.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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