The National Catholic Review

Thomas J. Reese, S.J., senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center in Georgetown and former editor in chief of America has sent us his keynote address to the Clergy Abuse Conference in Santa Clara University today:

I am not an expert on the crisis, but rather a journalist, commentator and priest. Perhaps my contribution can be first to congratulate and thank Kathleen and Tom and all of the contributors to the book, Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis 2002-2012 (Praeger, 2012). The book makes a genuine contribution to a better understanding of the crisis.  The church should be very grateful for your work.

For the rest of my talk, I would like to concentrate on what I think is the unfinished work of responding to the sexual abuse crisis. Needless to say, I cannot list all of the unfinished work, but the items I will highlight strike me as being important.

First, I think the church—and by church I mean both the clergy and the people of God—needs to re-envision its attitude toward the survivors of sexual abuse. In Latin America, liberation theologians developed the concept of the preferential option for the poor. The American Catholic Church needs to embrace a preferential option for the survivors of sexual abuse. 

Nor should we look at the victims of abuse simply as clients or problems to be dealt with. Just as people in the church have learned not to look on the poor as a problem to be solved, but to recognize their contribution to the church, so too we need to see the survivors of abuse as persons who can teach us what it means to be Christians, what it means to be church. No one who listens to their stories can fail to be touched by them.

This means that we cannot respond to every new victim who comes forward with “O God, not another one.” Rather we have to see them as integral to our community, persons who must be welcomed. Such an attitude would encourage the church to reach out to the thousands of victims of sexual abuse who have not come forward. We want them to come forward; the church needs them.

Second, we need a better system for investigating accusations of sexual abuse. Obviously, all accusations must be reported to the police, but if the statute of limitations precludes prosecution, the police will not investigate. Or the prosecutor may judge there is insufficient evidence to prosecute. Under these circumstances, the church still has an obligation to investigate and determine whether a priest is guilty or innocent, whether he must be permanently removed from ministry or returned to ministry.

The charter calls for an investigation of the allegations, but there is no standard operating procedure. Each diocese is on its own, with the result that some do better than others. The American criminal justice system sometimes fails even though it has police, prosecutors, grand juries, judges and juries. The church has not had anything like this since the inquisition. Not surprisingly, the church has a hard time getting this right.

It is essential that the church get this right. The victims deserve justice and children must be protected from future abuse. Innocent priests also deserve justice and a way to clear their names. And the process must have credibility to the public at large.

We need more research on this topic. We need to find out what are best practices and help dioceses to adopt them. We don’t even know how many priests are suspended or how long their suspensions last. Many priests fear that if they are falsely accused they will be suspended indefinitely because the bishop is afraid to return them to ministry.

In too many instances the investigative process appears suspect because it is under the control of the bishop. Episcopal credibility here is nil. The process will only have credibility to the extent that it is seen as truly independent of the bishop. Only an independent process will have the credibility to say that, “Yes, this priest can return to ministry.”

Third, we still do not have a system for bringing bishops to account. It is a disgrace that only one bishop (Cardinal Law) resigned because of his failure to deal with the sexual abuse crisis. The church would be in a much better place today if 30 or more bishops had stood up, acknowledged their mistakes, taken full responsibility, apologized and resigned. A shepherd is supposed to lay down his life for his sheep; these men were unwilling to lay down their croziers for the good of the church.

The bishops also have to step up and supervise their own. I know, “only the pope can judge a bishop under canon law,” but there are lots of things the bishops can do anyway. First, they must speak out and publicly criticize those bishops that are not observing the charter or are failing in their responsibilities. Bishops, including the president of the bishops conference, need to say, “Shame on you bishop, get your house in order.” This is not a canonical judgment; this is fraternal correction.

The Vatican also needs to do its job. It appears to have no problem investigating nuns and theologians, but investigating mismanagement by a bishop is not a priority. A bishop can be quickly removed in Australia for hinting that women and married priests might need to be discussed, but bishops who failed children are not removed.  Only in Ireland were a few bishops removed because of their failure to protect children, and that took a brave archbishop and the full force of the Prime Minister and the government.

Even when a bishop is indicted, no one has the sense to tell him to take a leave of absence until the case is over.

Finally, the sexual abuse crisis has to be seen in the context of clerical culture in the church. I agree with those who say that celibacy did not cause the sexual abuse crisis, but when a group of men sit around a table discussing what to do with one of their colleagues who abused a child, it makes a big difference whether the men at the table have children. The first question in a parent’s mind is “How would I feel if my child was abused?”  The inability of celibate men to ask that question blinded them to the consequences of their decisions. They focused on the priest, not the victim.

A culture of fear and dependency also contributed to the crisis. I don’t know whether Monsignor Lynn broke the laws of Pennsylvania, but he was certainly no hero. Too few priests stood up to those in authority and said, “No, you can’t do that.” Speaking truth to power is not welcomed in the Catholic Church. Diocesan priests are totally dependent on the good will of their bishop for assignments and promotions. If a 60 year old bishop is appointed to your diocese, he is going to be your boss for the next 15 years. In practice, there is no appealing his decisions toward you nor can you escape by moving to another diocese. You are stuck.

In this corporate culture, few are going to tell the bishop “no.” The one pastor in Philadelphia, who refused to accept an abusive priest, got reprimanded and punished for challenging the archbishop. This is what happens when you speak truth to power in the Catholic Church.

The problem in the Catholic Church today is that the hierarchy has so focused on obedience and control that it has lost its ability to be a self-correcting institution. Creative theologians are attacked, sisters are investigated, Catholic publications are censored and loyalty is the most important virtue. These actions are defended by the hierarchy because of fears of “scandalizing the faithful,” when in fact it is the hierarchy who have scandalized the faithful.

Is there any hope. The data in the John Jay report shows that the cases of abuse fell dramatically during the 1980’s. The problem of abuse is probably worse in other parts of American society than it is in the church, but that is still damning with faint praise. It can never be an excuse for doing less than is required. But I dream of the day when the church becomes part of the solution rather than part of the problem. We are not there yet. But hopefully someday what we learn about the detection, prevention and healing of abuse in the church may be of help in responding to abuse in American society.

Thomas J. Reese, S.J.

Comments

C Walter Mattingly | 5/15/2012 - 5:50pm
There are many sobering thoughts and good points in Fr Reese's commentary. Yet there are two points that have, I think, been given short shrift.
In an article that comes fairly close to excoriating the bishops for their failure to handle the sexual abuse issue properly and their continuing to come up short (for valid reaons, I believe), it is not an oversight, as Michael suggests, to "inadvertently" not mention the accounability of religious orders, especially the Jesuit order; on such a pointed and obvious question, it seems more of a mirror of the same hubris and desire to sweep under the rug a real problem that has plagued the Jesuit order as it has other orders as well as the bishops named here. Especially here, Fr Reese would have had far more credibility had he encountered that reality rather than avoided it. It is difficult to extend credibility to the idea it escaped his attention. Similarly, we only heard in America about the abuse problems of the province of the NW Jesuits shortly before the announcement of a huge cash settlement in the public media.
There is a "Physician, heal thyself" caveat that belongs here.
Secondly, Fr Reese makes a valid point that has been confirmed by the US Department of Education and elsewhere. "The problem of abuse is probably worse in other parts of American society than it is in the Church, but that is still damning with faint praise.It can never be an excuse for doing less than is required."
The question becomes, then, what is required?" If as has been reported in a major study of our own Department of Education that sexual abuse of children is 100 times worse in our public school system than in the Church, it is highly probable that not only many more children, but also more Catholic children, are being abused there. Would ignoring this far larger problem be "less than is required?" 
The problem is large, and far larger than the problem existing in our Church. And we as Christians have that far larger obligation to address as well. 
JOSEPH JUSTICE REV | 5/15/2012 - 1:37pm
It seems that part of the problem in dealing with child abuse in the Church is the tendency to blame others.  Fr Reese does this very well.  There are a number of examples about the hierachy investigating theologians and nuns.  It is amazing that he never speaks of his own community, the Jesuits.  There is a long and shameful history of child abuse by Jesuits in this country.  They have and are still covering up incidents and very few of their superiors have been dismissed from positions of leadership because of their role in hiding these abuses.  This talk would have been more credible if Fr Reese had spoken about his own community and would have been able to explain how the Jesuits were dealing with their part in this scandal.  As long as people are buzy directing charges at others and not dealing with their own part nothing is really going to change.  Yes, the bishops have failed miserably but the accounts of the Jesuits are just as bad.  A diocesan priest who is accused loses everything as Fr Reese pointed out.  A Jesuit is re-assigned to a different place where all his needs are taken care of.  His superiors continue in their own positions and are even promoted.  Perhaps, Fr Reese should consult the Scriptures about removing the plank in your own eye before removing the speck from another's eye.
Vince Killoran | 5/15/2012 - 1:34pm
"Physician, heal thyself.  Until then, don't bother."

Why "don't bother"?  I get the point about sexual abuse within the Jesuits but why discard Fr. Reese's perfectly sound argument? 

If it's your frustration with the stonewalling etc. then, then fine.  But please keep writing, lobbying, supporting SNAP. etc. but don't ask a high profile clergy member who is making compelling points.
Robert Carter | 5/15/2012 - 12:24am
As a survivor of Jesuit sexual abuse, let me ask Fr. Reese exactly how much work he has done to hold the Soceity of Jesus accountable for its wrongdoings?

Last month, Former Chicago Provincial and U.S. Jesuit Conference President Bradley Schaeffer was finally forced to resign as trustee of multiple boards of directors for failing to take action against notorious abuser Don McGuire.  That happened because the Boston Globe wrote several articles about Fr. Schaeffer's leadership failures.  http://articles.boston.com/2012-04-26/metro/31399560_1_chicago-province-jesuit-conference-schaeffer

Fr. Reese could also comment about the case of Fr. Daniel C. O’Connell, former president of St. Louis University, who sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student in 1983.  In 2003, the Jesuits' Missouri province pledged that Fr. O'Connell would be “restricted from participating in public priestly ministry,” but he has lectured at several Jesuit universities.  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/nyregion/30jesuit.html

How many articles did Fr. Reese write about Fr. Schaeffer, Fr. O'Connell or any other Jesuit abuser?  How much time has he dedicated to bringing Jesuit crimes & misdoings to light?  It is easy to cast stones at "the bishops", but far harder to turn attention toward one's self.

Abuse survivors like me have been ignored, stonewalled and ostracised by the Jesuits.  If Fr. Reese truly cared, he would investigate the Society of Jesus' own crimes and hold his superiors accountable.

Physician, heal thyself.  Until then, don't bother.
Michael Barberi | 5/14/2012 - 3:33pm
Crstyal:

If you want to read a great book, try "Wojtyla's Women: How they shaped the life of Pope John Paul II and Changed the Catholic Church" by Ted Lipien.

The entire issue of sexual ethics points to the influence of culture. Most people can move beyond the baggage that accompanies each of us to adult life. However, the Romantism of 19th century Poland with its emphasis of nationalism, struggle and moral superiority against oppressive foriegn powers, infused the very fabric of Polish citizens with a solidarity unlike other countries. The famous Poland poet, Michiewicz, wrote.. Poland suffers for the salvation of the world to redeem the sins of all the nations so that they may become worthy of freedom. 

Polish literature, theater and plays (Wojtyla majored in these subjects in college) were not only about the moral deficiency of Western societies but also a dim view of material progress that was achieved in the West. Not surprisingly, Wojtyla's objections to Western secular morality or lack thereof, centered on women, their sexuality and their interactions with men and society, but he was not blaming just women. He was a severe critic of consumeristic societies in which, he believed, everything can be bought and sold, including human life. 

It was easy for the Church in Poland to enforce uniformity and conformity. The communists made that easy for the Church because they alienated most Poles and drove them even closer to the Church. However, it is much more difficult for a religious leader from a country without a long tradition of pluralism and democracy to be successful in dealing with the growing numbers of people who, in the post-communist world, accept pluralism and freedom of choice, even in religion, as their natural rights. Even in his native Poland, Wojtyla's campaign of natural birth control was never a significant success. 

What makes much of today's issues problematic is the anti-West, anti-America beliefs of the Vatican based on invalid assumptions and lack of experience with Western democracy and the good it has brought to the world. The Church of today sees itself at war with secularism, consumarism, liberalism, feminism; it is good versus evil and the culture of life versus a culture of death. It will take decades, perhaps a century, before these engrained viewpoints are moderated and made realistic. Unless there is dialogue there will be no progress.
Vince Killoran | 5/14/2012 - 1:44pm
Tim O'Leary has a point: but the McGuire story folds in Mother Teresa and underscores the deep, structural culture of all powerful organizations who obsfucate and delay reform.

As for the Vatican's response to the Cloyne report, there's much more to "the whole story" than the Vatican's long memo, e.g., http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/?p=15007.
Crystal Watson | 5/13/2012 - 9:31pm
Michael,

Interesting - thanks for the background info.  If anything it highlights the shortcomings of a system that puts church doctrine at the mercy of a few guys with absolute power but limited life experiences.
Tim O'Leary | 5/13/2012 - 4:52pm
I wonder why Fr. Reese’s generally constructive talk omitted reference to the recent and rather stunning story in the Boston Globe (April 15 article titled “For the Jesuits, a long road to accountability,” http://articles.boston.com/2012-04-15/metro/31342179_1_jesuit-leaders-chicago-province-schaeffer). I do not know if the Boston Globe can be trusted to get the story right but it suggests the Jesuits, and Georgetown University have a lot of work to do. In any case, the religious orders need to be included in any total Catholic reform, not just the diocesan Bishops.

I am sorry Fr. Reese raised the Irish Prime Minister (actually the Taoiseach, Mr. Kenny) in any positive light as he in fact scurrilously slandered and defamed the Vatican in his speech when the problem was obviously local. The Vatican’s careful response to this several weeks later is well worth a read if one wants to see the whole story http://cdn.thejournal.ie/media/2011/09/20110903cloyneresponse.pdf. See also the recent stories on false accusations that prompted several resignations at RTE televisionhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17602602.
Michael Barberi | 5/13/2012 - 4:33pm
@Crystal

Yes, there is a fear but the fear is grounded in two things often not recognized or understood:

1. Karol Wojtyla, the future John Paul II, believed that the Western world, Liberalism, and Consumerism were very much like Marxism and Communism, and not far from Nazism and Fascism. Keep in mind that the young Karol Wojtyla was highly influenced by the culture of 1930s-1950s Poland. This culture was dominated by Nazism and Communism where abortion and contraception was legal, and there was no respect for human life and dignity. It was an extremely oppressive country that rejected religion in public life. He had to study for the priesthood in secret usually in the house of the Archbishop while he had to work during the day in a Chemical plant that produced war goods for the Nazi's, to avoid being sent to the camps. His perception of the West, modern women, feminsim, democracy and liberal economic systems became to some degree distorted by the misery and suffering he experienced around him.

Karol Wojtyla did not have any women in his young adult life as role models or mentors. His mother died when he was 12 years, his father when he was 21, and his brother died young as well. He had no other family or relatives. He was very religious and had no girl friends by choice. He respected all women, but to him they were better suited for certain roles than men, such as motherhood and caregivers. It was based on his experiences of women in Poland at that time. There was no business in Poland. It was a male dominated society where women were mothers and caregivers. His real female role model was Mary, the mother of Jesus. In Wojtyla's view, the Feminism of the West was believed to make motherhood subsidiary to business careers. It split the personality of women where individiualism and materialism was replacing the ideal of motherhood. He never understood Western women, in particular women religious, and they never understood his philosophy either.

The most important person who influenced his thinkng about contraception was Dr. Poltawska, a women who was the victim of the Revensbruck concentration camp medical experiments. It was Dr. Poltawska who asserted that in countries which "the contraceptiive mentality prevailed, abortion would be the logical outcome of contracecptive failure." Somehow, those who practice periodic continence and have the same intention (no more children for good reasons) would accept a child born by accident, but contraceptive couples would be more prone to abortion. The same words were used by Karol Wojtyla-JP II and mimicked by magisterial theologian Martin Rhonheimer, who was a close personal advisor to JP II. His philosophy and theology on marriage and procreation was developed in the 1950s and was fully explicated in his 1960 book, Love and Responsibility (L&R). The major priniples found in L&R found their way into the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (HV)

2. Paul VI, and later JP II and Benedict XVI, had an exaggerated fear against going against tradtion especially Casti Connubii and the thinking of Pius XII. Both JP II and Benedict XVI would rather have a smaller Church than to consider any critical revision of HV. When HV was criticized because of the many complex cases that demonstrated the unreasonableness and insensibility of HV, such as the case of a married women of 3 whose life is threatened by another pregnancy, was largly ignored. In this case, women whose lives are threatened by another pregnancy must practice "risky" periodic continence or imposed celibacy, rather than choose a prudent and effective method to safe-guard their lives like sterilization (or using the pill). 
Crystal Watson | 5/12/2012 - 10:30pm
About the contraception thing, when Humanae Vitae  came out there was a lot of dissent, even from some clergy like the Canadian, Scandinavian, and Belgian bishops, and there was a statement against it signed by over 600 theoligians and academics.  There seems to be much more of a climate of fear about dissent now than back then .... "'Humanae Vitae' 25 Years Later" ..... http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=10960
Michael Barberi | 5/12/2012 - 4:26pm
@Tom Halloran

Thank you for your comments about pastoral care. If I may shine a light of a specific issue it would be this:

A constant problem that has not been adequately addressed is the profound chasm between word (doctrine) and deed (pastoral theology). The silent pulpit on contraception is a prime example. How can one claim that a prohibitive act is Divine Law, intrinsically evil and must be confessed before receiving the Eucharist or be sacrilegious, yet remain silent about it?  Millions of Catholics practice contraception and stand in line each week to received Holy Communion. Yet, you never hear a priest, or bishop, discuss the connection between, act, sin, confession, Eucharist and conscience. What "truth" does this "pastoral practice" move the faithful to? If a speeding car is headed to a cliff, because the driver is not paying attention, but the passenger sees what is happening, does he or she have a moral responsibility to do something about it? With respect to contraception, does not silence become dogma because it becomes a silent narrative about the truth?

No one wants to address this issue because of the consequences. John Paul II believed that many of his clergy were infected with some type of evil of the secular world, a distorted reason, or the miguided philosophy and theology of the so-called dissenters. Ok, but what about the so-called problem and its solution?

This gap between doctrine and pastoral practices has undermined and destroyed the credibility of the magisterium, long before the sexual abuse crisis became known.
David Pasinski | 5/12/2012 - 11:58am
I would like to copy this article for distribution at our Diocdsan Pastoral Meeting next Saturday. But first I will send it our Ordinary.
I do not know how they will react, but my guess is that it will be defensive. While there is widespread outcry about the sexual abuse crisis and especially the recent attack on the LCWR, I fear that most Catholics that are involved with active participation on this level are noty at all wiling to challenge the structural sins involved. Whether you're intersted or not, I'll post the reeaction of both our bishop and the DPC.>
.
James Boyle | 5/12/2012 - 3:32am
Several pertinent points have been raised regarding the role of Canon Law by ''James'' (not myself) in the Catholica Forum - an Australian website - at:
http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?id=102466

Among other comments ''James'' mentions an important point : 

Thanks Angela for referring us to this excellent article by Thomas Reese SJ. He makes some very good points.
Like him, I am no expert on the abuse crisis, but I did once, a long time ago, study Canon Law and have spent my whole professional life as a civil lawyer, working with the meaning of words. I can only draw inferences from what people say and write.
And while he talks about the problems of the clerical culture, he makes no mention of how this culture came about or was maintained and nurtured. He makes no mention, like so many others, of the role played by Canon Law.
The Pope is ultimately responsible for Canon Law because under a monarchical system, the sovereign is the only one who makes laws. But you also have to look at the reality of the situation. Popes are very busy people and they need to rely on trusted advisers. When John Paul II signed the Motu Proprio Santorum Sanctitatis Tutela in 2001, he was 81 years old and had then been diagnosed as suffering from Parkinson's disease. The people who drafted that document for him must have been Cardinals Ratzinger and Bertone, from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. They also signed the accompanying letter that went out to all the bishops of the world, advising them of its provisions.
So, both of these Cardinals, one the Pope and the other his Secretary of State, must have some responsibility for the influence of Canon Law in maintaining and reinforcing the culture of secrecy. Further, Cardinal Ratzinger was told back in 1996 by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and the Australian bishops what was the appropriate Canon Law solution to the problem. He was again told the same thing by Lord Nolan in 2001, and by Cardinal Levada who went to see him personally in 2002, advising him of the necessity to allow reporting of clergy crimes to police. Yet that policy was not even adopted in 2005, when he became the supreme law maker as Pope. It had to wait another 5 years, and then only after all these scandals were breaking everywhere, especially in Ireland.
There it is in a nutshell - Canon Law imposed absolute secrecy, - from parents and other staff in the case involving the then Father Brady, and so many other situations.

The blame should not be placed entirely on the individuals who hid abuses, but it ought be shared ''up the line.''


John Shatkis | 5/11/2012 - 11:54pm
Fr. Reese,S.J. Describes the problem - a system of Church governance that permits no recall by the laity of the administrators i.e., the pope, bishops and priests.  Experience of the laity collectively expressed by vote will effectively remove from office administrators who fail to correct abuses and install women and men with integrity to govern. The function of Church governance does not, apriori, require male clergy for management functions.  To speak truth to power, reform the Church governance system and divide the administrative powers from the clerical functions and provide for the free election of the administrators by the laity.  The clergy will then be able to provide spiritual and theological direction for themselves and the laity unburdened by unchecked powers they now possess in virtue of their dual roles.
Thomas Halloran | 5/11/2012 - 11:03pm
Oops!  Vatican II was a four year not a three year event.
Thomas Halloran | 5/11/2012 - 6:53pm
2012 is the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Vatican II. Remembering that three year event and calling to mind the ongoing horrors of sexual abuse in the church as well as the more recent ''doctrinal concerns'' about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious perhaps it is time for a “preferential option for pastoral care”.
My reasoning is as follows:
1.  Vatican II was and has been termed a ''pastoral council''.
2.  There has been and still is some ambiguity about what that term, pastoral, means and, consequently, implies.
3.  John O'Malley, in my judgement, is correct in identifying the literary genre of the Vatican II documents as partial constituent of their meaning (and a better key to their meaning than the legal hermeutic of spirit/letter) and, consequently, the meaning of ''pastoral council''-especially in comparison with the ''literary genre'' of ''doctrinal councils'',(e.g. Nicea), for which canon/anathema is similarly a partial constituent.  
4.  Controversy about the notion/theory of history notwithstanding, both Nicea and Vatican II are indicative of different and significant ecclesial (genetic?) steps in a developing (deepening) understanding of the church as mystical body of Christ.
5.  If Vatican II was a pastoral council then the further questions might be:  ''What is pastoral care?'', How ''pastoral'' has our response to current issues which are critical-''have made life unliveable''? and ''How might we/should we implement pastoral care?''
 
Moreover, a preferential option for pastoral care would seem to be a general theorem which would include the option for the poor and Reese’s suggested option for survivors.
Michael Barberi | 5/11/2012 - 5:18pm
Thank you Fr. Reese!!! This is the best article I have read in America Magazine in over the last 2 years. Bravo! You are 100% right that we need an "independent" and "universal" process to guide the dioceses throughout the U.S. with respect to sexual abuse allegations, investigations and final actions, in particular whether a priest can return to ministry.

This short quotation speaks to many other issues like "how can a celibate pope and Vatican clergy understand what it feels like to be married, the importance of marital intercourse in the fulfillment of procreation and marital love, the decision about and the rearing of children, all wiithin the true meaning of responsible parenthood? 

"....but when a group of men sit around a table discussing what to do with one of their colleagues who abused a child, it makes a big difference whether the men at the table have children. The first question in a parent’s mind is “How would I feel if my child was abused?”  The inability of celibate men to ask that question blinded them to the consequences of their decisions. They focused on the priest, not the victim. 

Lastly, I can only admire your courage and wisdom when you say it is disgraceful that bishops don't take responsibility for their immoral behavior and "resign". No bishop is standing up and calling for accountability and appropriately criticizing other bishops that are not fulfilling their moral responsibilities. No bishop is speaking the truth to authority. The culture in our Church must change because it muzzles the truth.
Crystal Watson | 5/11/2012 - 4:49pm
Thanks to Fr. Reese for being so honest - it's refreshing to read that bishops should be accountable, that married priests might have made a difference for the better, that the power structure is set up for self-protection rather than justice.  I wish I could say that I believed the hierarchy would listen and change.  Maybe if enough clergy like Fr. Reese speak up, they will eventually have to.
ed gleason | 5/11/2012 - 2:15pm
Thanks again for going on record. Cardinal Brady Ireland Primate will not resign even with new disclosures that he suppressed the info on the notorious Smyth case,
His temp status is more important then the faith of all the  laity in Ireland. Pope won't accept his resignation but curries favor with the SSPX. ????
They ignored the abuses that led to the Reformation.. and had the nerve to declare victory. Chutzpah should be  heretical.
Jack Barry | 5/11/2012 - 1:23pm
Thank you for an excellent summary.   One more essential  -  prepare for a long haul.   If the necessities you identify were implemented today, expect decades to pass before trustworthiness and credibility of the community of bishops might be restored.   The current shattered standing of the hierarchy extends far beyond the one specific subject, abuse coverup, that has fueled 10 years of reactions and planted  long-term memories in the Faithful and in church history.   
 
As for bishops resigning, my understanding is that they do so only with the permission of the pope.  In Ireland, some bishops offered resignations because their association with abuse had been exposed, and Benedict XVI did not accept them.  If such papal values continue, could we look forward to a day when a bishop would find enough virtue and courage to walk out, were that to happen to him?  What becomes most important?   
 
Beyond the bishops, the first Philadelphia Grand Jury (2001-2003) noted the ''non-offenders'' who have been part of the coverup, although they did not personally abuse.   What will it take to unblind these celibate men you mention so they are able to understand sin and crime in front of them?   They are already beneficiaries of more education than most ordinary people except for the profound lessons celibacy excludes.   
''[p.8] Finding 10.  Many non-offender priests have remained silent in the face of clear evidence that a brother priest is sexually molesting a minor, and in some cases have actually covered up the abuse. The Archbishop and his appointed administrative managers foster this silence in order to avoid scandal in the Church and do not encourage priests to report suspected abusers.''  
http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2003_09_25_First_Philadelphia_Grand_Jury_Report.pdf  
Vincent Gaitley | 5/11/2012 - 1:20pm
Good thing you're a Jesuit, Fr. Reese, or your future in a diocese would be over.  Quite right of you to point out that the bishops have no credibility.  Rome hasn't noticed, nor cared enough to dismiss any of the dozens of useless bishops pretending to lead this flock.  Accountability of bishops? Are you kidding? This is the wishful thinking of all of us, but I am not deluded-Rome will not budge on this, and that is why this crisis will not end.  What am I to think of a Church that allows Rembert Weakland to retire rather than rebuke him? Cardinal Law?  He was kicked upstairs, thank you. In Philadelphia, Msgr. Lynn has been exposed, along with the late Cardinal Anthony B., and it's an ugly story of abusing power and ignoring the law.  Abuse will occur again, against children, young adults, and the finances of the Church.  We protest. We are ignored. History repeats itself.  I guess we are all protestants now.  
Vince Killoran | 5/11/2012 - 1:02pm
"The American Catholic Church needs to embrace a preferential option for the survivors of sexual abuse."

A sobering reminder that we have not done this yet.
James Boyle | 5/14/2012 - 9:58pm
Tim O'Leary defends "the Vatican's careful response" referring to quite recent Vatican actions, but neglecting the crucial fact that for many years Canon Law imposed absolute secrecy on all investigations into clerical sexual abuse, imposing a penalty of automatic excommunication for violations of that secrecy. That was a far higher penalty than ever imposed on any abuser, let alone on any hierach who failed to protect children.

There has never been any doubt that bishops' actions in concealing abusers were fully in accord with Vatican wishes. Nor is there any doubt that then Acrdinal Ratzinger was alerted to the Canon Law problems, at least by the time crises arose in Australia in 1996 as mentioned in my earlier comment.

So, there was both an established culture of silence, and a direct and specific policy enforcing that silence - not a case of wayward bishops in Ireland, or Australia, or USA, or Belgium, or Canada, or ...  30 or more countries.

Tha problem was endemic and systemic - and clearly the responsibility of Vatican leadership.
Anne Chapman | 5/11/2012 - 1:18pm
Thank you Thomas Reese. Especially for your explicit statements saying that bishops cannot be trusted to police themselves or to reform themselves. The paragraphs beginning with ''Third,..... and beyond explicitly define what is wrong and what needs to be done.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Your words are much appreciated, even though they will be ignored by those who most need to take them to heart.

But, those in the chanceries and in Rome are simply digging in even harder than before. They are now taking an ''aggressive'' stance with victims representatives. The ''mea culpas'' will remain empty words, political grandstanding.  The hierarchy of this church will not ''self-correct'' and the focus will be to continue to ''purge' the ''dissenters''.




Michael Barberi | 5/15/2012 - 3:33pm
I did not read into Fr. Reese's article any indication that he was excluding Jesuit priests that have sexually abused children. However, I do think that a good point was made about diocesan versus religious priests. Accountability for sexual abuse is not solely limited to bishops but to leaders of religious orders as well. 

We should all give Fr. Reese some latitude here for inadvertantly not mentioning the accountability of religious orders.