A Lengthy Effort Is Seen for US Bishops

By Rachel Zoll
Boston Globe [Washington DC]
November 14, 2003

WASHINGTON -- It is too soon to say the nation's Roman Catholic bishops have succeeded in healing the church's wounds from its sex abuse crisis, two leading Catholic intellectuals said yesterday.

George Weigel, the American biographer of Pope John Paul II, and the Rev. J. Bryan Hehir, former dean of Harvard Divinity School, said the problems created by the scandal were too complex to be resolved quickly.

The men were among panelists gathered at the Ethics and Public Policy Center to discuss the future of American Catholicism, one day after bishops ended their national meeting in Washington.

Weigel said the bishops have made improvements, such as enacting a mandatory national policy on responding to abuse claims and disciplining guilty priests.

However, he said it was "way too soon" to determine whether church leaders have made sufficient changes in their own thinking to improve their leadership.

He pointed to a recent event where one bishop praised a group of newly appointed bishops for being "team players.

"That kind of club mentality -- `we're bringing people into our club' -- I think needs to be shaken up," Weigel said.

Hehir, who will become president of Catholic Charities in Boston starting in January, said the bishops have clearly made progress, but he said the reforms could only be judged in the long term. "I think the jury is out," he said, questioning whether the bishops' new policies would be enough on their own to restore the church's credibility with parishioners and the public.

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops, said that church leaders do not feel that they've resolved the crisis, only that they've made great strides in addressing it.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said at the prelates' meeting that they had made "significant progress" in addressing the scandal but more needed to be done.


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