"We must learn to forgive."
There were no big surprises here nor were any magic solutions offered. People suggested what you'd them to suggest: more accountability, a bigger role for the laity in general and women in particular, maybe married priests.
Most striking perhaps in what I heard was the absence of bitterness. People are indeed deeply distressed about what has happened, but they aren't in a rush to blame anybody for it – not yet at least.
Commendable as it is, however, this patience is not inexhaustible, and I would not advise anyone occupying a leadership position in the Church to count on things staying that way without early and effective action to address the roots of the present crisis.
I was also struck by the fact that so many people appear to suffer from dismaying gaps in what they know about the sex abuse scandal. During the listening session I attended, the sentiment was frequently expressed that the bishops ought to be "doing more."
Very likely the bishops should be doing more, and perhaps they soon will be (their November general meeting will be crucial). But the people making this point often seemed unaware that the American bishops have been doing quite a lot about the sex abuse problem for the last 35 years, and apparently with good results as measured by the notable decline in new cases of abuse of minors reported in this time.
Here I mainly fault the media – especially the secular media – for feeding audiences a diet of sensational news while downplaying or ignoring the fact that sex abuse in Catholic institutions in the United States is way, way down. Is it possible that this partly reflects a certain deep-seated dislike of the Church arising from prejudices that have little or nothing to do with its record on sex abuse?
All in all there is cause for much encouragement in hearing serious, practicing Catholics speak out about this scandal. But note that I said encouragement, not complacency.