|Arriving in Dallas, bishops greeted
with more bad news
By THOMAS C. FOX
Some 300 U.S. bishops, arriving in
Dallas today for their most important meeting as a national conference, were
greeted to a front page story in The Dallas Morning News that claims
roughly two-thirds of their top leaders have allowed priests accused of sexual
abuse to remain in their active ministries.
The report was the result of a
three-month Dallas Morning News review of all the U.S. dioceses and the
bishops who lead them. A bishops spokesman, according to the article, did
not dispute the results of the study.
The report depicts a broad pattern of
episcopal complicity in the deployment of accused priests within the U.S.
church. Consistent patterns of this complicity have been in place at least
since reports first began to surface of clergy sex abuse and episcopal cover-up
in the mid- 1980s.
The bishops are in Dallas to debate a
draft policy statement on abuse that focuses on past and future wayward
priests. However, it ignores the bishops roles in concealing or enabling
the actions of such priests and offers no guidelines for sanctioning such
Meanwhile, an ABC poll released today
shows the overall approval ratings of the Catholic church in America on the
decline. Favorable opinions have dropped from 63 percent in February to 47
percent now, the poll found. Furthermore, 73 percent of all Americans
disapprove of the way the bishops are handling the scandal, up 14 percent since
the cardinals met in Rome in late April.
Among Catholics, 63 percent disapprove
of the bishops handling of the crisis.
The poll also found that Catholics are
equally likely to reject the suggestion, included in the draft the bishops will
consider, that one-time priest abusers be allowed to continue in their
ministries. Eighty-two percent of Americans, including 81 percent of Catholics,
say that such men should be expelled automatically from the
The Morning News review found
that at least 111 of the nation's 178 Roman-rite Catholic dioceses are headed
by men who have protected accused priests or other church figures, such as
brothers in religious orders, candidates for the priesthood, teachers, and
youthgroup workers. Eight of the 111 are cardinals in U.S. archdioceses.
The study did not include about 100
other members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, most of whom serve in
supporting roles but can vote this week in Dallas.
The 111 bishops complicity took
many forms, from ignoring warnings about suspicious behavior to keeping priests
on the job after admissions of wrongdoing, diagnoses of sexual disorders, legal
settlements, and even criminal convictions, the News study found.
The paper quoted Fr. Francis
Maniscalco, a bishops spokesman, as expressing no surprise at the
numbers. Why should anybodys feet be held to the fire?" he asked.
The bishops made what they thought were prudent decisions at the time.
The decisions were made on the best advice available.