The following press release from Voice of the Faithful came across my desk yesterday. It sounds like a creative response to a current episcopal problem.
NEWTON, Mass. – U.S. bishops must finally institute strong measures of fraternal correction when bishops fail to follow their own Charter for the Protection of Children and Young people after clergy are accused of child sexual abuse, according the Roman Catholic Church reform and abuse survivor support group Voice of the Faithful.
Disappointed but not surprised by the lack of substantive changes to the Charter during the recent United States Conference of Catholics Bishops meeting in Seattle, VOTF has sent a letter to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, USCCB president, asking USCCB to make its position on child protection absolutely clear by resolving as soon as possible to do the following:
· When USCCB learns a bishop has engaged in activity that would be prohibited by the Charter, or
· When USCCB learns a bishop has disregarded the principles of the Charter and has failed to take the actions required by the Charter, or
· When USCCB learns a bishop has made public statements indicating his disagreement with the Charter’s principles or his unwillingness to take the action the Charter requires,
· Then, after notifying the bishop and after the bishop fails to take corrective action within 60 days,
· The bishop shall be excluded from USCCB activities and the USCCB’s action shall be reported to the Papal Nuncio and be the subject of a USCCB press release.
“Protection of children should be paramount in the administration of our Church,” said Dan Bartley, VOTF president, in the letter to Dolan. “National fraternities of bishops and the Vatican have made this incontrovertible.”
Bartley also said that, although VOTF is disappointed at the relative inaction on this issue by the USCCB at its Seattle meeting, progress is still possible and necessary. But failure to put some teeth into fraternal correction, according to VOTF, could expose USCCB to the failures of its constituent bishops. Some bishops reported to have committed such failures include Bishop James Wall, Gallup, N.M., Bishop Robert Finn, Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Lincoln, Neb., Bishop Robert Vasa, Santa Rosa, Calif., and Cardinal Justin Rigali, Philadelphia, Penn.
VOTF declared in the letter the time has come, and indeed is long past, for U.S. bishops to stop relying on moral imperative and claiming they can do nothing effective to keep each other in line to protect children. “Any organization relying on an ‘impotency’ defense in such a grave matter should be called to account,” said Bartley.
“We also believe the threat of exclusion and public disapprobation will encourage USCCB members to implement the Charter more vigilantly and agreeing to these steps is a viable way to ensure this,” he said. “We are convinced they would increase protection of children from clergy sexual abuse and help restore bishops’ badly damaged credibility,” Bartley concluded.
Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and shape structural change within the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.