US bishops won’t restore trust with announced plans to stop abuse

National Catholic Reporter

September 24, 2018

By Michael Sean Winters

Are the U.S. bishops up to the task of restoring trust? Early indications are mixed.

The Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement last week pledging to use “every bit of the strength God provides us” to protect the church — from themselves. As is not infrequent in such cases of self-management, and if the steps they announced are any indication, the bishops have a long way to go before they can rest easy that their efforts to heal the church will not, in fact, make an already terrible situation even more dreadful.

No one can object to the first item on the bishops’ to-do list: They are establishing “a third-party reporting system that will receive confidentially, by phone and online, complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop and will direct those complaints to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.” I am not sure why they did not explain what the “appropriate ecclesiastical authority” is. Apparently, alerting a nuncio is not enough. The need for a Vatican dicastery to deal with all aspects of the clergy sex abuse mess remains obvious and urgent.

Similarly, the Administrative Committee announced it had “Instructed the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.” Well, no one has told the rest of us which bishops resigned for what reason, so it will be interesting to know how this will play out. I do not detect much in the way of transparency here, although I will bet Archbishop John Nienstedt’s gig as the personal chaplain at the Napa Institute is now a thing of the past.

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