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Fool Me Twice

Gratuitously stolen from Crux News

Fr. Dwight Longenecker earlier today published a blog post titled “What the Bishops Should Do.” I was going to fisk his article, but instead what follows is my own reflection on his suggestions.

The USCCB chair Daniel Cardinal DiNardo should immediately staff the creation and maintenance of a website and database listing every cleric (and laity when they abused as an employee or volunteer of the diocese, parish, or school) from every diocese who abused, protected the guilty, or paid money for silence. The “rap sheet” for each person should include their ordination date, assignments, substantiated claims, age and sex of victims at the time of the abuse. It should go back fifty years, and include expert opinion, based on the evidence, on whether the diocese waited out the statute of limitations. This will be helpful in cases where authorities decide to waive the SoL and allow prosecution and award damages to the victims. This website could be populated immediately with the information available from those dioceses who are already providing such information.

In addition to merely striking a deal with the U.S. Attorney General allowing the bishops to start their own comprehensive investigation, perhaps in approaching the AG, the Church’s lawyers could get guidance on exactly how the investigation should be carried out, agree in writing to abide by those guidelines, and invite unlimited visibility throughout the entire process to the AG’s staff.

The stories of those who have been convicted should be published. Some dioceses are already doing more than this. The diocesan bishops, as these abusers’ spiritual fathers and “bosses” should have the authority to release the information based solely on substantiation of the facts (the abuser confessed or the evidence is overwhelming).

This website and database “rap sheets” should uniformly show certain information pertinent to the cases. Wonderful idea to publish the amount paid, but it should also include whether the diocese made them sign a confidentiality agreement. Such actions are evil given the circumstances and should be the immediate cause of a bishop’s dismissal from the clerical state.

The “rap sheets” should also contain the information on whether the abuser is deceased, whether they were laicized, etc. I don’t know if posturing with “look, we’re getting better” would be appropriate. Let the facts speak for themselves. Because this time, it isn’t so much about the abuse (though it still is), it’s about the cover-ups, the moving abusers around, the satanic silence concerning known abusers, and the paying for silence from victims.

In cases where the bishop himself abused, covered up, allowed priests with substantiated claims against them to continue in ministry, or made a victim sign a confidentiality agreement, that bishop should step down or be forced down.

At the outset (soon!), a joint statement signed by every single bishop in the U.S. should be published and any bishop who refuses to sign it (after the left and right limits have been agreed upon), that bishop should step down or be forced down. Fr. Longenecker suggested the following:

  1. an explanation of how these cases were handled in the past and why
  2. an admission that some cases were handled badly and even criminally
  3. an admission that an insidious homosexual subculture has existed in the church
  4. a promise to root out the underlying causes of clerical abuse including homosexual activity
  5. an acknowledgment that these crimes also exist in other churches, schools, and institutions
  6. a promise that the Catholic Church is taking moral leadership to stamp out all forms of abuse

Monetary compensation for the victims is always at the top of the list. As Americans, that’s how we think, for good or ill. Beyond that, what must be addressed is that phenomenon where a victim can’t even walk into a church because the atmosphere itself is traumatic, or cannot receive Holy Communion because the priest involved the Eucharist in the abuse, etc. Bishops must accompany these victims throughout the rest of their lives, and in fact, so should parish priests and even the lay faithful if the victim is open to it. If a dispensation for the victim is needed from Sunday Mass attendance, it should be given. I would go so far as to say that, for the next hundred years, the priests and bishops should corporately do public penance monthly, and invite the laity to join them. It should involve fasting and willingly offering-up our pains, sicknesses, and sufferings in reparation for the Church’s failures. Every victim who still wishes to maintain their Catholic faith should be given any dispensation necessary for the good of their soul.

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