" Doubts" Grow on Merz Op-Ed

By David Gibson
December 16, 2008

Last week Grant Gallicho posted here about a Boston Globe op-ed by Judge Michael Merz, head of the lay-led National Review Board that is supposed to ensure that the bishops follow their own policies on child protection. Merz's view that the hierarchy was doing a good and no one should have any worries–and that any bishops who did anything wrong should not resign–was immediately questioned in many quarters. Now Voice of the Faithful, the lay reform group that grew up in reaction to the scandal and whose protests and efforts were part of the reason the NRB was created, has issued a response to Merz's op-ed that questions its accuracy. VOTF's leadership says it is "deeply disappointed" in Merz's statements and continues:

Catholic bishops complicit in the clergy sex abuse scandal do indeed need to resign or be replaced. Unlike Judge Merz, we at VOTF do not assume that those responsible for coverups and scandal are in any way qualified to lead the cleanup.

Judge Merz's remarks are especially troubling in light of the requirements for his Review Board to monitor compliance of the bishops with the USCCB's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Self-reporting by diocesan officials is not the same as a verifiable assessment, and it is troubling to learn that the NRB regards such unverified results as evidence of "forceful" response by the bishops or of their commitment to the programs. True commitment should include verifiable participation and independently audited results in all dioceses and penalties for those bishops who do not comply.

Finally, we do not agree with Judge Merz that the Church is demonstrating an "unrelenting … quest to ensure that all children" are safe when the President of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George, was forced this year to acknowledge serious failures in his own diocese to immediately remove priests credibly accused of molesting children.


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