As U.S. bishops work to formulate an official response to clerical sexual abuse and cover-up, a new watchdog group backed by wealthy Catholics is seeking to take matters into their own hands.
A new organization, which held an RSVP-only event on Sunday evening, plans to spend more than $1 million in the next year investigating every member of the College of Cardinals “to name those credibly accused in scandal, abuse, or cover-ups.”
“The Better Church Governance Group” held its launch on the campus of the Catholic University of America (CUA) with the stated intention of producing its “Red Hat Report” by April 2020.
The U.S. bishops founded the Catholic University of America, and all six residential U.S. cardinals are members of its Board of Trustees.
In a statement to Crux, a CUA spokesperson said, “A space on campus was reserved by a student in accordance with our space reservation procedures. The event was not sponsored by The Catholic University of America nor a university-sponsored organization.”
The organizers of the Better Church Governance group confirmed that it was a private event, and in an e-mail to Crux said there was no association between the university and the organization.The Red Hat Report, dubbed as the group’s “flagship project,” is designed to audit all 124 current papal electors. Organizers say it will be conducted by a team of, to date, nearly 100 researchers, academics, investigators, and journalists, with the aim “to hold the hierarchy of the Catholic Church accountable for abuse and corruption, and to develop and support honesty, clarity, and fidelity in Church governance.”
In an audio recording obtained by Crux of the event’s launch, Better Church Governance’s Operations Director, Jacob Imam, said the organization was not meant as an attack on Pope Francis, though he asked the crowd of nearly forty attendees: “What if we would have had someone else in 2013 who would have been more proactive in protecting the innocent and the young?”
“Had we had the Red Hat Report, we may not have had Pope Francis,” stated one of the slide presentations accompanying his remarks.