It can’t happen. It can’t happen. It happened.
In November 2003, Kim Lawton of PBS interviewed then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan about the American bishops’ response to the abuse scandal.
Lawton: Some groups fear the bishops’ energy and commitment may fade.
Archbishop Dolan: Can’t happen. Can’t happen. We never, never, Kim, want to go through what we’ve had to do. We just can’t do it. We can’t do it personally. I think we bishops will collapse if we ever have to go through this again. And we can’t, we just can’t, in justice, put our people through that again. So, I don’t think there’s danger of us forgetting.
So now, roughly 15 years later, why are we talking about the bishops’ failure to take action?
- Cardinal Dolan was wrong. There was a danger that the bishops would forget. They have an extraordinary facility for forgetting.
- The bishops haven’t forgotten, but they still don’t quite understand why everyone was so upset in 2003, so the new uproar this summer has caught them by surprise—again.
- The bishops haven’t forgotten, but they lack the ability and/or the determination to resolve it. The shepherds can’t guard the flock.
- The bishops haven’t forgotten, but they didn’t see a connection between the molestation of boys under 18 by ordinary priests and the molestation of young men (mostly) over 18 by an archbishop.
- The bishops haven’t forgotten, and they’re willing and able to take effective action, but as a group they’re so thoroughly out of touch that they were unaware of the McCarrick scandal even when scores of clerics, reporters, and ordinary lay Catholics were aware.
Now I have three questions:
- Which, if any, of the above explanations would restore your confidence in the American bishops?
- Which, if any, of the above explanations is an argument against multiple resignations?
- Which, if any, of the above explanations is an argument against a Vatican visitation, an independent commission, or some other official investigation that could ask the right questions, demand candid answers, and assign responsibility?
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