"Why Are We Still Talking about This?" – 16 Years Later, the Lay Board's "Progress Report"
By Rocco Palmo
Whispers in the Loggia
October 4, 2018
For the record, for all the talk you've heard of major in-house investigations over the scandals unearthed through recent months, only one is actually happening – the Rome-chartered probe of adult misconduct by Bishop Michael Bransfield, the initial reports of which proved enough to force the West Virginia prelate's quick removal last month (and which, according to the inquest's overseer, had netted some 40 additional calls as of last week).
As for the rest, as first reported in these pages' side-feed some weeks back, two major planks of the US bishops' intended response to the fresh crisis – an apostolic visitation, and a lay commission which would report on allegations against bishops to the Nuncio to Washington – were both vetoed by the Holy See as the USCCB Executive met with the Pope in mid-September. (In addition, given the separate scoop that Francis urged the bench to take a week-long group retreat in lieu of their usual November meeting, a previously-unrelayed piece on that front bears noting: the pontiff's rationale for the suggestion was that the exercise was necessary for the conference to begin to heal the division within its own ranks.)
In the assessment of one ranking op, the fallout of the audience seemed to indicate that Francis "has had it with us." And these days, more than a little says the Man in White is far from alone in that.
Of course, a quick search will yield ample evidence... per usual, though, how much of it is actually in the ecclesial interest is an open question. Nonetheless, even as a thousand forums and town-halls boom all over the place, one in particular stands out.
On Monday, the daily lunch crowd at the City Club of Chicago was treated to a top-shelf panel on Crisis 2.0, led by three of the major players tasked with handling the USCCB's response in 2002 – Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and veteran Washington power-lawyer Bob Bennett, who respectively served on the inaugural National Lay Review Board, and Kathleen McChesney, the top FBI official recruited to be the bench's founding quarterback on combatting the storm as director of the conference's newly-founded Office of Child and Youth Protection.
All of five weeks out from a Baltimore plenary whose agenda and hoped-for outcomes remain fully up in the air, while the trio's hourlong discussion is worth watching for anyone with an interest in these days, for the policymakers among us, it's nothing short of necessary: