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Will new Vatican commission on abuse answer the one crucial question? (a re-run)

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Mar 24, 2014

Now that Pope Francis has named the members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, I think it's relevant to mention the question that I raised when the Holy Father first announced plans for the commission. The post that follows originally appeared last December 5:

Today’s Vatican announcement that the Pope will create a new commission answers every question—except the one question everyone is asking.

What we don’t know is whether the new commission will take action against bishops who fail in their own responsibilities: bishops who cover up abuse. So we don’t know whether the commission will address the root cause of the scandal.

We know that the new commission will issue guidelines for handling sex-abuse issues. But we don’t know if bishops will follow those guidelines.

We know that the new commission will develop “safe-environment” programs for use in diocese. But we don’t know whether these programs work.

Yes, we know that the new commission will consult with “experts” on abuse. But will they keep consulting the same experts on whose advise the bishops kept placing abusive priests back into parish ministry?

We know that the new commission will address the issue of cooperation with government officials. But we don’t know whether individual bishops are willing to cooperate.

If you can’t trust the bishops, you can’t trust the Church’s response to sex-abuse complaints. The challenge facing the Church—the same urgent challenge that has been facing the Church for over a decade now—is not to establish new guidelines and procedures, not to solicit more expert advice, but to restore trust in our bishops.

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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  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Mar. 24, 2014 4:13 PM ET USA

    Concerning your question, Phil, about whether there will be action taken against these bishops who did tremendous damage to the Church, my bet is riding on "No". I would be very happy to lose this bet, but from what I have seen over that last decade or so, I conclude the fix is in....solidly.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Dec. 05, 2013 7:36 PM ET USA

    Discretion is the better part of valor. This problem runs deep. The Church needs good men. Trust will be restored when our bishops demonstrate that they are trustworthy men. It has been a struggle to date. This involves something beyond them; perhaps less concern for social work and a pointed emphasis on personal prayer and spiritual fortitude. If the deficient had simply the decision standards of the radio sports' show hosts (re-Penn State)some dioceses might have far less debt and shame.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Dec. 05, 2013 3:25 PM ET USA

    After the financial crisis of late 2007, economist Joseph Stiglitz said the only way to end abuses was to send some bankers to jail. We should think along the same lines about our bishops and their role in the homosexual abuse and cover-up crisis. The secular scandal is that both bankers and bishops broke the law and none of them saw the inside of a prison cell.