‘Dear Bishops, please pay attention…’ — UPDATED

‘Dear Bishops, please pay attention…’ — UPDATED August 6, 2018
Via Pixabay/Public Domain

Elizabeth Scalia notes some news out of Washington this morning — and says what a lot of us have been thinking: 

This morning comes breaking news out of NCR, that Washington DC’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl has proposed a “national panel” to investigate any serious allegation made against Bishops.

And the panel would be comprised of, wait for it…bishops.

To that I would respond, “Well, your Eminence, yes and no.” Yes, there should be a panel– there should be panels in every diocese and every deanery, ready to look into serious allegations made against any representative of the Church. But with all due respect, sir, no, there ought not be a bishop residing on a single one of them.

There is an old Roman saying, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who will guard the guards?) In a sense that needs to be asked, now. The suggestion that the laity and the priests who trusted the bishops to do the right thing before — and have been amply burned for it — should just trust the bishops to do the right thing again would be farcical if it were not so insulting.

Wuerl’s remarks suggest that he really has no idea how catastrophic the revelations about Theodore McCarrick’s long-standing abuses (about which too many Cardinals and Bishops profess themselves “Shocked, shocked” as they slouch toward Eternity via Casablanca) have been to the trust of the laity. Let me spell it out: That trust has been shattered. It no longer exists.

She concludes:

Dear bishops, please pay attention. I am hearing from people who are refraining from receiving Communion because they are so angry they feel unfit to partake. “I don’t want to be looking at the priest and wondering, ‘are you living a double life, too’ but the thought comes unbidden” a woman said to me this weekend. Multiple people have said they are so shaken it has affected their sleep.

If your people cannot sleep due to a sense of betrayal, disgust and anxiety over what is happening within their church, how in Christ’s name, can you?

Read it all. Every word. She nails it.

As I noted recently: I’m hearing from people who are so upset, they are wondering if they can even remain Catholic. At least one bishop himself has noted (astutely, I think) the crisis of confidence this has caused: 

I believe it is accurate to say that most regular, church-attending Catholics still trust their priests, who minister and serve the People of God faithfully. The same can no longer be said of bishops. We have lost the trust of many of our priests and people, and we must act wisely in the face of this present challenge in the hopes of regaining that trust.

This cannot stand.

UPDATE: Leave it to Albany Bishop Ed Scharfenberger to hit the nail on the head. This was just released this afternoon:

Statement by Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany:

While I am heartened by my brother bishops proposing ways for our Church to take action in light of recent revelations – and I agree that a national panel should be commissioned, duly approved by the Holy See – I think we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer. To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised.

It is time for us, I believe, to call forth the talents and charisms of our lay faithful, by virtue of their baptismal priesthood. Our lay people are not only willing to take on this much-needed role, but they are eager to help us make lasting reforms that will restore a level of trust that has been shattered yet again. In speaking with them, we all hear their passion for our universal Church, their devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and their hunger for the truth. They are essential to the solution we seek.

What is needed now is an independent commission led by well-respected, faithful lay leaders who are beyond reproach, people whose role on such a panel will not serve to benefit them financially, politically, or personally. These will be people with a deep understanding of the Catholic faith, but without an axe to grind or an agenda to push. It will not be easy, but it will be worth every ounce of effort, energy, and candor we can muster.

We bishops want to rise to this challenge, which may well be our last opportunity considering all that has happened. We must get this right. I am confident we can find a way to look outside ourselves, to put this in the hands of the Holy Spirit, and to entrust our very capable lay people, who have stood with us through very difficult times, to help us do the right thing. We need an investigation — the scope of which is not yet defined but must be defined — and it must be timely, transparent and credible.


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