Common Sense and Candor? Four Hopes for the USCCB Meeting in November

By Msgr. Charles Pope

NCRegister—The victims of this abuse, and all those scandalized by it, deserve the bishops’ very best efforts — Like many in the Church from both the clergy and laity, I am increasingly shocked by the depths of the crisis before us. Every day seems to bring forth new allegations of sexual immorality or the cover-up of such behavior.
Further, recent statements of the Pope, while containing some signs of hope, have more often been discouraging—even deplorable. In the face of legitimate requests for a full investigation of the testimony in Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s recent letter, his general approach has been one of silence.
However, in a homily delivered in early September, the Pope seemingly compared those requesting investigation to “a pack of wild dogs” and to those who “seek only scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction.” In a more recent homily, he appeared to dismiss them as tools of the Great Accuser, Satan, who is “attacking bishops” so as to “uncover their sins … in order to scandalize the people.”
This does not sound like the talk of a father who loves his children or of a shepherd who “has the smell of the sheep.” Catholics are rightly concerned and deeply saddened by such harsh comments. Serious charges have been made and they warrant investigation — because real people have been profoundly harmed and because the reputation of the entire Church is at stake. A sad result of this scandal and the way it has been handled has been the destruction of the trust that the faithful should be able to have in their leaders. Without this trust, teaching authority and leadership have no foundation.
Further, lay Catholics have the right — even the duty — to raise concerns of this very sort to their pastors at every level, publicly if necessary. The 1983 Code of Canon Law states:
According to the knowledge, competence and prestige which [the Christian Faithful] possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons (Canon 212.3).
This duty has not been exercised lightly by the Christian faithful, who have been overwhelmed by what seems to be the repeated inability of the hierarchy to maintain moral discipline in and accountability for clerical behavior. In fact, the duty is being exercised regretfully, with sadness that it has become necessary.
As the bishops prepare to gather for the November meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I pray that they will consider some of the following in…  Read More>>


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