They’ve issued a statement now. It’s as trite and useless as you’d expect from a corporation, from bureaucrats, from a Hollywood celebrity hoping that some minor scandal will blow over soon enough and they’ll be able to resume business as usual. But it’s not from any of these groups; it’s from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and it reads, in part:
As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops. . . .
We are committed to work in determined ways so that such abuse cannot happen. . . .
We pledge to maintain transparency and to provide for the permanent removal of offenders from ministry and to maintain safe environments for everyone. . . .
We pray that all survivors of sexual abuse find healing, comfort and strength in God’s loving presence as the Church pledges to continue to restore trust through accompaniment, communion, accountability and justice.
Notice what they did not say:
They did not say, “We call upon all bishops who have at any point in the past, whether before or after the institution of our new protocols, turned a blind eye to reports of such abuse, whether because those reports didn’t follow bureaucratic protocol, or because acting on them would have been a source of embarrassment, or for any other reason, to resign.”
They did not even call for any such bishops to disclose what they knew and seek counsel from the community as to whether he ought to continue in office.
And we are still missing the acknowledgment from the bishops collectively or from individual bishops that this is not a matter of having the right bureaucracy in place, and making statements as a collective, but of individual sins by individual people who need to confess their sins and be held to account — and a matter of bishops holding each other accountable rather than creating new forms of bureaucracy while they hang out with rich prospective donors and celebrities and politicians and promote their favored politics (as long as those politics are sufficiently progressive, e.g., climate change and immigration reform).
(Is that last line uncalled for? Is the impression the bishops give of caring more about being celebrities and using their platforms to promote their preferred political policies than actually ministering, derived from news coverage of the former rather than the latter? Maybe so. But Chicago’s Cardinal Cupich certainly appears in the news often enough in a manner that suggests that he thinks his job is some sort of honorary appointment to work for social justice, as if he’s the head of some sort of foundation that just got a big grant for the purpose.)
I am angry. I feel like the bishops are all playing us for suckers, thinking if they issue enough bland statements as a whole then they can protect each other, and that school will start up again and we’ll be too busy supervising homework and volunteering to stay up late scrutinizing the local Greek Orthodox church’s website for any clear indicator of whether liturgies are in Greek or English. Do they not have any sense of public opinion? Do they not read, for instance, Megan McArdle’s scathing response (knowing that her usual topics are business and economics, so if she’s addressing this, you can tell that she’s angry)? Are they really going to delude themselves into thinking that it’s all about bureaucracy, that they can appoint another commission to tell them about more bureaucratic structures, and that, heck, none of them individually have any ability to do anything about the behavior of any other bishop (neither formally nor informally by private persuasion or public shaming), so it’s completely out of their hands?
And do they think that they can get away with it, that parishioner numbers will be unchanged, because those of us who have stayed, what with the major loss in religious identification numbers over the past two decades or so, feel ourselves committed and stuck, anyway? Or have they all given up already anyway, and begun to see themselves as charged with best managing the decline, so as to preserve the best architectural exemplars for a much smaller denomination?
. . . . . . . .
Sigh. Just as I was about to click “publish” a new statement came across my twitter feed, the announcement by the USCCB in the name of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the USCCB, that they have, yes, created some new bureaucratic processes. Oh, boy.
Because, again, they say,
Because only the Pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power.
Each and every bishop has the ability to call out other bishops and shame them for their misdeeds. You don’t need the Pope for this.
Finally, I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do.
Enough with the collective and vague apologies.
If you did something wrong, apologize for it directly, personally, and specifically. If you’re going to stick to your guns and say you knew absolutely nothing at any time and never did anything wrong, then urge the other American Catholic bishops (and stop calling them “brother bishops” when everyone feels that this sense of “brotherhood” is part of the problem) to apologize for their own failings.
Yes, I know it sounds like something from a Maoist collective struggle session. “Confess your faults.” “Not good enough, confess some more.” “Well, there was this one time when my mother complained we didn’t have enough to eat, and I didn’t turn her in.” But we have had so many of these idiotic garbage apologies, that I have no tolerance for anything that remotely resembles them any longer.
Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:United_States_Conference_of_Catholic_Bishops.svg; By Ng556 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons