In a Moment of Turmoil, US Catholic Bishops Meet Virtually

Associated Press

November 15, 2020

By David Crary

Catholic bishops of the United States open a national meeting Monday under dramatic circumstances.

A pandemic has compelled them to meet virtually from their far-flung dioceses. A hard-fought presidential election has caused sharp divisions in their own ranks. And six days before the meeting, the Vatican released a revelatory report detailing how clerics in the U.S. and abroad failed to hold ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick to account until many years after suspicions of serial sexual misconduct had become widespread.

“The shadow of the McCarrick report hangs over this meeting,” said John Gehring, Catholic program director at a Washington-based clergy network called Faith in Public Life.

McCarrick, who was defrocked by Pope Francis last year, headed up dioceses in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, and in Washington, D.C. The report found that three decades of bishops, cardinals and popes dismissed or downplayed reports of McCarrick’s misconduct with young men.

For U.S. clergy, one of the most embarrassing revelations was that three New Jersey bishops — all now deceased — provided “inaccurate and incomplete information” about McCarrick to the Vatican as part of an investigation in 2000, just a few months before he became a cardinal and archbishop of Washington.

The bishops will discuss the McCarrick report twice Monday, first in a private session and later in a public livestream, according to the communications office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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