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US bishops table key votes on response to scandal, at Vatican’s request

November 12, 2018

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will not vote this week on two highly-anticipated proposals to respond to the sex-abuse crisis, after a last-minute Vatican intervention.

As the American bishops gathered for their November meeting in Baltimore, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the USCCB president, announced a stunning change in the agenda for the three-day meeting. Because of a directive from Rome, he said, the bishops would not vote on one proposal to institute a code of conduct for bishops, and another to organize an independent investigation, under lay leadership, into the bishops’ response to the abuse scandal. Those two proposals were easily the most visible items on the USCCB agenda, and had drawn enormous media coverage for the bishops’ meeting.

In announcing the agenda change, Cardinal DiNardo made it clear that the items were being tabled at the request of the Holy See, and that he was disappointed with the move. “At the insistence of the Holy See, we will not be voting on the two action items,” he said. He also indicated that he had only been made aware of the Vatican’s decision on Sunday night, November 11, just hours before the USCCB opened its plenary meeting. Archbishop Christopher Pierre, the apostolic nuncio in Washington, had met with Pope Francis earlier on Sunday.

Cardinal DiNardo said that the Vatican had explained the intervention by saying that the American bishops’ response to the crisis should be informed by the results of a February conference in Rome on the sex-abuse scandal. The Pope has summoned the leaders of all the world’s episcopal conference to that meeting.

In his own address to the USCCB meeting, Archbishop Pierre also hinted that the Vatican may have reservations about the American bishops’ plan for a lay-led investigation. “Assistance is both welcome and necessary, and surely collaboration with the laity is essential,” the papal representative said. “However, the responsibility as bishops of this Catholic Church is ours.”

The sudden change in the meeting’s agenda left many American bishops visibly dismayed. The USCCB leadership has pushed for a stronger Vatican response to the abuse scandal. In September, Cardinal DiNardo led an American delegation to meet with Pope Francis, asking for an apostolic visitation into the case of former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The American bishops were disappointed when Pope Francis declined to authorize such an investigation, which could have produced definitive answers to the troubling questions raised by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

Pope Francis, for his part, has appeared uneasy with the public responses of the American hierarchy, and had suggested that this week’s USCCB meeting be postponed.


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  • Posted by: msrsm19887530 - Nov. 16, 2018 8:14 PM ET USA

    It appears that the Pope wishes to control any investigation. Why? To point the finger at "clericalism" rather than sexual immorality, and, in particular, homosexuality? To protect certain supporters from scrutiny?

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Nov. 14, 2018 4:38 PM ET USA

    One may speculate that Pope Francis wants to control the outcome of any investigation, using the same strategy that he used in the Synods on the Family and Youth. This investigation in February may focus mainly on "clericalism" while giving little attention to the elephant in the room "homosexuality in the clergy." Why? One may speculate that Pope Francis needs the support of the Lavender Mafia to continue to push his agenda for the Church.

  • Posted by: feedback - Nov. 14, 2018 1:16 AM ET USA

    This, in addition to "I will not say a single word" looks really really bad. Francis' Vatican doesn't seem to care much about anything.

  • Posted by: mariaznar89242 - Nov. 13, 2018 5:13 PM ET USA

    Unbelievable! May Our Blessed Lord have mercy on us and help the Bishops stand up for the truth, stop the silence and coverup, and live the Gospel. Lord, help us to purify your Church and give us the needed strength to overcome this crisis. Amen. +

  • Posted by: unum - Nov. 13, 2018 10:44 AM ET USA

    So any bad news about deviations from the faith and injuries to the faithful will be hidden by the Vatican. The U.S. bishops will be muted and the faithful will continue to be uninformed. ...and Jesus wept!

  • Posted by: WNS3234 - Nov. 12, 2018 11:15 PM ET USA

    Amazing! Simply amazing.

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Nov. 12, 2018 9:14 PM ET USA

    Are there no bishops with courage?

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Nov. 12, 2018 8:04 PM ET USA

    What a story from the Vatican. Just more hide and seek nonsense. They are doing more to destroy support of the hierarchy. Soon we will not believe anything coming out of the Vatican. What a shame. Jesus help us. We have a Sodom and Gomorrah at the Vatican level.

  • Posted by: John Holecek - Nov. 12, 2018 7:42 PM ET USA

    Get your individual houses in order because the End Time are upon us.

  • Posted by: DanS - Nov. 12, 2018 7:17 PM ET USA

    The Pope’s behavior since the Vigano testimony does him no credit, eroded confidence in his leadership and commitment to the truth (and the Truth). His opaque and free-agent maneuvering makes him seems more likely guilty by the day, desperate to save his political agenda. The humility, deference, and collegiality have disappeared. He acts like a tin-can despot.

  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 12, 2018 5:25 PM ET USA

    How serious is Pope Francis about his often-touted increase in autonomy for the Particular Churches? I hope that the whiff of clericalism is nowhere near this decision.

  • Posted by: nix898049 - Nov. 12, 2018 2:22 PM ET USA

    Well, let me be the first to comment. This is just plain viciousness on the part of the Holy See. The February meeting will come to nothing, I feel safe to predict. And Bishop McCarrick will never have a canonical trial, Rome has spoken...hah! Whatever comes after this, they've brought on themselves. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Nov. 12, 2018 1:03 PM ET USA

    So, Pope Francis wants to give Bishops' conferences more power (see Magnum Principium, Well, at least until they decide to take actions that are contrary to his will. In those cases, he wants Bishops' conferences to obey his every directive.