From The Texas Catholic and Catholic News Service reports
What is not going to be voted on by the U.S. bishops at their fall general meeting in Baltimore is likely to overshadow what is being discussed as they engage in three days of public sessions.
At the request of the Vatican, the vote to create a new commission to handle allegations of sexual misconduct by bishops was postponed for their Nov. 12-14 meeting. So, too, was a vote for a new set of standards of episcopal conduct, although both items will still be discussed.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the request came from the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. The reasons given for the delay was Pope Francis’ planned meeting in February with the presidents of bishops’ conferences worldwide to deal with clergy sex abuse, and to be sure that the proposals being considered by the bishops conform to canon law.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago called for a special assembly in March to weigh and vote on the measures after being informed by the outcome of the February meeting in Rome.
“It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church,” Cardinal Cupich said, adding that the February meeting was a “watershed moment” in church history. “We need to be clear where we stand and tell our people where we stand,” he said.
In his presidential address to the USCCB, Cardinal DiNardo took note of the historic nature of the meeting.
“Whether we will be remembered as guardians of the abused or of the abuser will be determined by our action beginning this week and the months ahead,” he said. “Let us draw near to Christ today sacrificing him our own ambitions and promptly submit ourselves totally to what he demands of us both in love and justice.”
He also held up his own weakness to victims in his remarks, saying: “Where I have not been watchful or alert to your needs, wherever I have failed, I am deeply sorry.”
A work in progress
Bishop Edward J. Burns said that while perhaps disappointing to some, it is important to understand that as part of the universal church, the USCCB must wait until after Pope Francis’ meeting in February with the presidents of national conferences.
“While it can be a bit perplexing and frustrating, thinking that we’re coming to a meeting thinking that you’re going to proceed only to be asked to wait a little bit, that is what we are called to do,” he said. “This is a work in a progress and there is still a lot of hope for the progress that lies ahead.”
Bishop Burns recounted how the Diocese of Dallas has responded to the clergy sex abuse crisis, locally and nationally, particularly through a Ceremony of Sorrow, town hall meetings across the diocese, the continuing review of clergy files by an independent company comprised of former federal and state law enforcement officials, and a pledge along with other Texas bishops to release the names of credibly accused clergy by the end of Jan. 31 of next year.
“We have taken our steps and we have taken action,” he said.
Bishop Burns said that the faithful should not be wary because of the delay in action requested by the Vatican.
“This is a church in motion and this is a church that is going to proceed,” he said. “We will never stop nor will we be complacent in creating a safe environment or reaching out to victims.
“What is now important is to demonstrate a level of accountability, in particular when looking at the issue of the Archbishop McCarrick case. Accountability was failing terribly and now it is important that we add to our actions those of transparency, healing for the victims and accountability,” Bishop Burns added.