The Bishops Have Failed Us. What Can We Do?

The Bishops Have Failed Us. What Can We Do? August 15, 2018

bishop, clipboardLike many, and I daresay most, Catholics in the U.S., I am reeling from the one-two punch of abuse scandals that have rocketed the Catholic Church in American in the last few weeks. First, the revelation that Cardinal Archbishop McCarrick was a longtime predator of young boys and men, whose behavior was an open secret to the Vatican and Church hierarchy, and who was still elevated through the ranks of the Church despite being an utter disgrace to Catholicism in general and Jesus Christ in particular; and now, the Pennsylvania grand jury report that implicates over 300 priests spanning many different dioceses, as well as many bishops. There are at least 1,000 documented victims, but likely more exist.

I urge you to read the full 1300+-page report if you can; I am still working my way through it because it’s hard to read more than a few pages at a time without feeling the need to vomit. If you can’t read it due to PTSD reasons, National Catholic Register provides a summary here that alludes to the gory details but isn’t explicit about them.

Per the report (emphasis mine):

Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were prepubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants, or were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally. But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.

The first ten pages alone of the report are filled with reports of stupefying, horrific acts of depravity — not only by priests, but by bishops who actively covered up for and enabled the priests in question.

I can’t even find the words to express my outrage or describe the depth of the betrayal I feel.

Bishops, you were supposed to be shepherds, not wolves! You were supposed to stand for the victims of evil men, not enable predators! You are the ones Christ was referring to when He said,

…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:6, NASB)

Bishops, you are causing your entire flock to stumble by your actions. I had to push myself to go to Mass yesterday for the vigil of the Feast of the Assumption, and even then I sat through the entire service in tears of anger, humiliation, and shame. My only comfort was looking at the crucifix, and at the statue of Our Lady, and knowing that the depth of their pain and betrayal was likely worse than my own.

You have betrayed us all. You have betrayed the victims, the innocent men, women, and children you were supposed to guide and protect. You have betrayed Christ; unlike St. Peter, you feel no remorse.

Instead, you express irritation that the abuse scandals interrupted your Cape Cod vacation, and chastise Catholics for withholding donations. I’m looking at you, Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Diocese of Buffalo, who can be contacted here.

Or you give lip service to the great work you have allegedly done in service of abuse victims, neglecting to mention that you knew of predator priests in your diocese for years and did nothing — NOTHING — but shuffle priests around to different parishes, providing them with new parishioners to victimize. I’m looking at you, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who can be contacted here.

I could go on, and on, and on. Clearly, however, the bishops have failed us. Each one of them is suspect. Innocent until proven guilty is only applicable in the context of a court of law; right now, the bishops — each and every one — is guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of all Catholics.

No longer will I put my trust in princes, because the princes have betrayed the kingdom they were sworn to protect.

What can we do?

A common refrain I’m hearing among other Catholics is, “What can we do? I feel so helpless.”

Many suggest prayer. And yes, prayer is good. Holy hours of Eucharistic Adoration in reparation are good. Rosaries are good (I suggest the Sorrowful Mysteries).

But in addition to prayer, we also need action.

Per Servant of God Dorothy Day, in a letter to peace activist Gordon Zahn:

As a convert, I never expected much of the bishops. In all history popes and bishops and father abbots seem to have been blind and power loving and greedy. I never expected leadership from them. It is the saints that keep appearing all thru history who keep things going. What I do expect is the bread of life and down thru the ages there is that continuity.

We need holy men and women to step forward and do for the Church what the Church cannot do for Herself, and what the bishops are unwilling to do for Her.

Elizabeth Scalia offers seven important steps here, and another good suggestion here.

The bishops run the Church like a corporation and act like CEOs. And like CEOs, they care more about the power and influence of their position than the people entrusted to them.

  • The entire hierarchy needs to be dismantled and overhauled.
  • Every single bishop mentioned as complicit in the grand jury report needs to resign immediately, and the ones that remain need to do public acts of repentance and reparation.
  • Every single diocese needs to submit itself to similar grand jury investigations, and provide full cooperation and transparency. If a bishop is implicated in a cover-up, he needs to be prosecuted, if possible. If the statute of limitations has run out so that he cannot be prosecuted, he needs to resign immediately and dedicate the rest of his life to prayer and penance.
  • Speaking of the statute of limitations, every bishop needs to immediately go on record as supporting changes to state law that will increase the statute of limitations, or abolish them altogether, in cases of sexual abuse in general and clergy abuse in particular.
  • Every single bishop implicated in a credible abuse allegation and/or the cover-up of same needs to be publicly named and shamed. If there are schools or buildings or memorials named after them, if they have received any honors — each and every one needs to be stripped. Instead of Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, call it Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic High School. Or better yet, St. Michael the Archangel High School.
  • Every single priest and bishop in every diocese, at their own expense, needs to install software on every electronic device they own — computers and smartphones, whether or not they are private property or property of the diocese — that flags questionable content and images and sends regular reports to a board of laypeople who are mandated reporters, or, better yet, the sex crimes division of the local police department. If they are unwilling to do so, their devices should be confiscated.
  • All money raised from bishop’s appeals will go to abuse victims. Additionally, dioceses should be forbidden from using diocesan funds to pay for lawyers for priests and bishops who are being prosecuted by civil authorities for sexual abuse or sexual misconduct charges. The priests and bishops can use their own personal money for attorney’s fees or get public defenders.

It’s a tall order, but we need to see this through. I think the bishops are hoping that the news will die down in a few weeks and everything will go back to the way it was. We can’t let that happen. We need to stay righteously angry, stay vocal, and keep pushing for change.

A few more suggestions

Write to the Pope. Write to your bishop. Call your diocese. I have contacted my diocese a total of four times so far (three times online, and once via phone), and I don’t plan to stop. Stop attending diocesan events except to protest. Stop donating money to the bishop’s appeal and give your gifts directly to organizations such as Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul instead.

Do not attend any Mass at which a bishop is presiding. Maybe a few Masses said to empty churches will help the bishops realize the enormity of the betrayal they have stewarded.

I would love to see diocesan employees resign in protest while the rest of us refuse to apply for the open positions, but I understand this isn’t a practicable solution, as families need to be fed. But oh, I have to admit I would enjoy seeing the bishops scramble while the laypeople refuse to have anything to do with diocesan operations. It’s a lovely fantasy.

Regina Magazine is organizing a rally called Silence Stops Now that will take place during the USCCB General Assembly in Baltimore during the second week of November. As much as I dislike Michael Voris and his tactics, I am more than willing to hold my nose and work with him and his group to purge the Church of the filth that has infested it.

In the words of the grand jury:

As a consequence of the coverup, almost every instance of abuse we found is too old to be prosecuted. But that is not to say there are no more predators. This grand jury has issued presentments against a priest in the Greensburg diocese and a priest in the Erie Diocese, who has been sexually assaulting children within the last decade. We learned of these abusers directly from their dioceses – which we hope is a sign that the church is finally changing its ways. And there may be more indictments in the future; investigation continues.

We are watching, Bishops. Be the shepherds you are supposed to be. Protect us from the wolves instead of being a part of the pack.

A word of thanks

I’d like to close by offering my personal thanks and gratitude to the many reporters, investigators, and grand jury members who have worked to expose these scandals and bring this festering corruption into the light so that it can be burned and purged. I’m sorry for all the times you weren’t believed, for the times you were blocked, for the suffering you endured as you uncovered the hideously disgusting details contained in your reports and stories. We need people like you to continue to hold us accountable. Please don’t stop.

And to the victims: I cannot imagine the depths of your pain, anger, and betrayal. I am so sorry the Church victimized you when She was supposed to empower you; I am so sorry She failed you when She was supposed to protect you. I am only one woman, but I promise that I will do everything in my limited power to get justice for you and every other victim, past and present.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I’m picturing a scenario in which there is a huge HUGE purge. Not enough priests to go around? That’s okay! We can travel a little further for Mass or the priests (the few good ones left) can travel on a rotating schedule. We’re going to have a skeleton clergy for a while, which means that the lay people will have to step up and help out the good clergy that are left with whatever admin tasks and ministries. It will be chaos, and the Church will get through it, but it needs to be a ruthless, extensive purge.

    And yes, I am very angry right now.

  • Absolutely. I’m willing to travel farther for mass if it means true reform in the Church.

  • Dorothy

    It is indeed interesting how different factions of the Church are willing to put aside differences to be shoulder-to-shoulder on this.

  • Otto

    I commend you for writing and honestly addressing a very difficult but important subject as a Catholic

    Everyone has to decide for themselves…I left never to return. It wasn’t even a hard call.

  • I cannot leave. To whom would I go? Christ has the words of eternal life. But the Church needs a new Reformation.

  • Otto

    Tough questions had to be asked.

  • Linda Daily

    Have you been asleep for the past 15 years? There is little new news in these reports, and the information was accessible through sources deemed CINOs by the Catholic blogosphete – National Catholic Reporter, Voice of the Faithful, Bishop Accountability, Richard. Sipe, Jason Berry, Tom Doyle, Bob Hoatson, Sr. Maureen Turlish, Patrick Wall and on and on. Catholics who cared enough about the church to speak out.

    Now that onliners who have been telling us to “stop complaining about the abuse scandal already” have suddenly woken up and are shocked, this has become worthy of attention. Maybe you can understand now why so many faithful you discredited have been calling for reform.

  • Annilouise

    What seems to be missing from this discussion is that many if not most priest predators were themselves victims of childhood sexual abuse. This problem is not new. It has been going on a long time. Pre-Vatican II Church cover-up was absolute. It took the changes of Vatican II and the greater involvement of the laity plus a willingness to recognize & discuss sexual issues that made the current exposure possible.

  • Sue Vogen

    No, it took abuse victims suing and winning that made the current exposure possible. If the church hadn’t been hit in the pocketbook it would still be abuse as usual.

  • joannawahlund yes but

  • joannawahlund 3+