.- The bishops of the United States resumed their open-floor discussion on the recent sexual abuse scandals facing the Church in America Wednesday morning. In addition to debating the best means of institutionally responding to the crisis, the specific case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick was raised by several speakers.
Bishop Richard Stika of Knoxville told the conference Nov. 14 that the allegations against McCarrick, and the scandal of his rise and fall, were not just affecting long-time Catholics. Many people in the process of entering the Church found themselves having the example of McCarrick throw at them by friends and family as evidence that they were entering an institution in crisis.
Stika said McCarrick, and the letters of former nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, were serving as “ammunition” to discourage people from entering the Church, and that many Catholics felt that bishops were only responding to the sexual abuse crisis when they were “forced to” by the media.
Several bishops spoke in favor of the USCCB acting as a body to speak out about McCarrick.
Bishop Michael Olson of Fort Worth told the conference hall that “we end where we begin.”
“So much of the outrage we experience – and I think it’s a rightful outrage – is prompted by the injustice that our people have experienced at the hands of predators, at the treatment of our seminarians and our priests who were entrusted to the care of former cardinal McCarrick, a trust that was not only violated, but was ignored by others who were responsible for paying attention.”
Olson observed that while Pope Francis had accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the college of cardinals and sent him to a life of prayer and penance pending a canonical process, the USCCB had yet to respond as a body to the scandal caused by one of their own.
“He is an emeritus [bishop of a U.S. diocese] and as such he is supposed to be a welcome guest here. He is not welcome and we should say it,” Olson said. He also questioned if the bishops’ reliance on structural and procedural reform was overshadowing their need to act with moral authority.
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