The bishops of Missouri are supporting suggested action items to handle the clergy abuse scandal, adding that they hope to provide some direction for the U.S. bishops at their fall meeting this week.
The Missouri bishops’ letter and statement were released Nov. 12 after Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced that the Vatican requested the U.S. bishops postpone a vote on action items addressing the clergy sexual abuse during their General Assembly Nov. 12-14 in Baltimore.
“We are heartbroken over the abuse of power, which is at the center of the sexual abuse scandal of our Church,” the Missouri bishops wrote in the letter, which was dated Oct. 6 and addressed to Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Ind., chairman of the bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. “We must keep at the forefront the survivors of the horrendous evil that was perpetrated against children, minors and seminarians, who suffered greatly and whose faith in the Church, in many cases, has been destroyed.”
Cardinal DiNardo told the bishops at their fall meeting that that Vatican has asked them to delay making any decisions until February, when Pope Francis plans to hold a summit of presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world to discuss the abuse crisis and child protection.
The Missouri bishops offered their support for the action items recommended by the U.S. bishops’ conference, but they added that “we fear these measures will not be enough in either substance or timeliness to meet the demands that this pastoral crisis presents.” Recommendations have included the establishment of a third-party hotline for complaints of sexual abuse by a bishop; development of policies to impose restrictions on bishops who have been removed or resigned for allegations of sexual abuse of a minor or sexual misconduct with an adults; and support of a full investigation into the Archbishop Theodore McCarrick scandal.
The Missouri bishops made several other recommendations, including:
• All dioceses and eparchies should release the names of all clergy and consecrated religious who have a credible and substantiated accusation of sexually abusing a minor or vulnerable adult;
• Bishops should individually mandate religious institutes, apostolic societies and secular institutes with ministries in their dioceses to comply with the bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People;
• A renewed commitment by the bishops to use the charisms of the laity in their exercise of pastoral governance as bishops. “We cannot solve this crisis on our own,” they stated. “We need the laity to help us.”
“While remaining firmly rooted in our faith, hope and charity, we must pay attention to that which threatens our communion with one another,” they wrote. “Transparency, accountability and genuine reform in the way in which the Church handles issues of the abuse of power by the hierarchy are required.”
The letter was signed by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Auxiliary Bishop Mark S. Rivituso of St. Louis, Bishop James V. Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, and Bishop Edward M. Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Bishop Rivituso is a member of the U.S. bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.