Cardinal Tobin still doesn’t get it. Nighty-night, baby.

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

If the scorching address by Francesco Cesareo, calling for negligent bishops to resign voluntarily, produced the most encouraging moment in the USCCB meeting, the low point might have come when Cardinal Joseph Tobin spoke, and made it abundantly clear that some prelates still don’t “get it.”

After delivering a report on the investigations into “Uncle Ted” McCarrick in his Newark archdiocese (it’s complicated), Cardinal Tobin wondered aloud why people don’t trust their bishops. “What was there before?” he asked rhetorically. “What was our credibility built on, that it could be so swept away?”

Let me attempt to answer that question. The credibility of Catholic bishops was built on the presumption that they would be honest with their people, and courageous in defense of the truth. It was “swept away” by twenty years of non-stop revelations that the bishops were not being honest, and not defending the truth. And the remaining shreds of credibility were washed down the drain when, rather than coming clean, prelates asked the public to accept implausible explanations of questionable conduct—such as, just to pick one example, claiming that a “Nighty-night, baby” Twitter message was intended for a sibling.

By the way, Cardinal Tobin also attempted to defuse the simmering anger of fellow bishops about the Vatican’s refusal to authorize an apostolic visitation to probe the McCarrick scandal. He reported that the Vatican is currently conducting its own investigation into that mess, with the help of an American lawyer. That’s more than Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the US bishops’ conference, apparently knew about the Vatican’s involvement. Cardinal DiNardo had told the assembly that he did not know the status of the Vatican’s investigation.

Does it strike you as odd that the elected leader of the episcopal conference was not briefed on the Vatican’s investigation, but Cardinal Tobin—who, according to Archbishop Vigano, is one of the prelates whose promotion was backed by McCarrick—was? It shouldn’t. Earlier in the USCCB meeting, Cardinal DiNardo had indicated that he was blind-sided by the Vatican’s last-minute instruction to table the most important items on the agenda. But Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich was ready and anxious speak about the Vatican’s intervention and the reasons behind it; evidently he had advance notice. And—stop me if you’ve heard this before—Cardinal Cupich is, according to Archbishop Vigano, one of the prelates whose promotion was backed by McCarrick.

And you still wonder why the bishops have lost credibility?

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: Frodo1945 - Nov. 15, 2018 3:42 PM ET USA

    It doesn't take a rocket scientist to watch this fiasco and see that DiNardo is president in name only, Cupich and Wuerl undermined him terribly and made him look foolish. So much for collegiality. Another million dollars wasted on a three day "vacation" in Baltimore.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 15, 2018 2:24 PM ET USA

    Yesterday I posted my answer to Cardinal Tobin's 2 questions: 40 years of liturgical and catechetical abuse were more obvious than the sexual abuse of seminarians and minors. These abuses constitute 2 failures of the episcopate to exercise its Christ-sanctioned mission: priestly and prophetical. Phil has identified the 3rd failure: governance. I cited another bishop in my comment: Wenski of Miami. His outrage: "Most people are not hung up on the sex abuse crisis." How do you spell out of touch?