Did you notice? Review Board chairman urged bishops to resign

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Nov 14, 2018

Chances are, you’ve only seen quick summaries of the address by Francesco Cesareo, the chairman of the National Review Board, to the US bishops’ meeting this week. I strongly recommend reading the whole text. It’s remarkable.

Notice first the tone of the address. Cesareo delivers a series of home truths, in candid language. He is not giving the bishops a few mild recommendations; he is taking them to the woodshed. Saying what so many lay Catholics believe, he tells the body of bishops that they have lost the trust of their people.

Next notice the specific recommendations that Cesareo does make. He reports that the National Review Board still wants action on the items that had been on the USCCB agenda until the Vatican intervened. He says that bishops who have betrayed their responsibilities should be called to account, since “it remains clear that some bishops have escaped the consequences of their acts of omission regarding abuse, and that little is being done to address this injustice.”

Speaking for the Review Board, Cesareo suggests several different means by which bishops might hold each other accountable, including “barring guilty bishops from USCCB membership or attending national meetings.” He strongly and repeatedly advocates fraternal correction, suggesting that bishops “appeal to the Holy See if a particular bishop appears unable or unwilling to act in the best interests of the entire Church.”

Still more notably, Cesareo calls—in clear, unmistakable language—for a thorough investigation into the McCarrick scandal:

Archbishop Vigano’s allegations must be addressed. No stone must remain unturned. Ignoring these allegations will leave a cloud of doubt over the Church, as questions will linger.

However, the most dramatic section of Cesareo’s address comes when he praises Bishop Robert Morneau, who voluntarily announced his withdrawal from public ministry in recognition of his failures to curb abuse. Cesareo reflects:

A grand jury report or canonical proceeding did not force him to withdraw. He did so because his conscience dictated such action.

And then—pay careful attention; this is significant—in the next sentence the chairman of the National Review Board goes on to urge other bishops to resign:

Bishop Morneau’s actions exemplify those that some of you must take to restore trust and allow the deep wounds caused by the current crisis to heal. [emphasis added]

On a personal level I was interested to see that Cesareo cited the famous “smoke of Satan” address by Pope Paul VI at the close of his address. I have no reason to believe that he was prompted by the title of my new book. But it’s clear that we are talking about the same problem.

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 CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: fmgrant8955 - Nov. 18, 2018 12:45 AM ET USA

    "Review Board chairman urged bishops to resign". Good Phil. Thanks. Frank Grant

  • Posted by: mary_conces3421 - Nov. 16, 2018 11:54 PM ET USA

    I don’t that group statements would help much anyway. Individual bishops can begin ferreting out rot within their own dioceses—in seminaries,if they have them, & in rectories. Those that didn’t would be conspicuous. Adult sin must be acknowledged & deplored. Policies to protect children are probably already adequate.

  • Posted by: dfp3234574 - Nov. 16, 2018 8:41 PM ET USA

    The bishops lost trust because *good Catholics* repeatedly failed to stand up for them when they were falsely maligned and dragged through the mud by the media. Catholics are scared to be accused of "defending the indefensible" or being a Church "lackey," so they have joined the secular mob in bashing bishops. What passes for "Catholic journalism" is now nothing but *cowardice* disguised as valor. One example: *Innocent men* were wronged in that PA report, and the Catholic media said *NOTHING*!

  • Posted by: JP Kevin Murphy - Nov. 16, 2018 6:48 PM ET USA

    Thank you for giving always in your commentary a concise and much needed analysis of what's happening and needed to be addressed by our bishops as we face the Sex Scandal in the Church. Many of the Bishops who made interventions at the council meeting were moved by Cesareo's report. Hopefully, those who should resign will do so by following the example of Bishop Morneau.

  • Posted by: Philopus - Nov. 14, 2018 5:05 PM ET USA

    Mr. Cesareo's letter is encouraging. What makes me wonder if anything significant will come of it is that the most appropriate response from bishops is for them to admit their guilt and then resign (as Bishop Morneau did). It seems unlikely that many of the culpable will do so; their lack of fortitude and honesty is their vice.