Missouri bishops release letter urging USCCB action on sex abuse crisis

Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, one of the signatories of the letter. Credit: Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis, one of the signatories of the letter. Credit: Archdiocese of St. Louis.

.- The bishops of Missouri released a letter Monday expressing support for proposals meant to help address the sexual abuse crisis in the Church, shortly after the Holy See directed that the proposals not be voted on at the US bishops' general assembly this week.

“We must keep at the forefront the survivors of the horrendous evil that was perpetrated against children, minors, and seminarians, who suffered greatly and whose faith in the Church, in many cases, has been destroyed,” the Missouri bishops wrote.

“A culture of silence and cover-up by the hierarchy has brought the Church to this moment of crisis.”

The bishops released the letter Nov. 12. It was dated Oct. 6 and was addressed to Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette in Indiana, chairman of the US bishops' Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. An enclosed statement was also released.

Earlier in the day, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops' conference, had announced that the the American bishops would not yet be voting on two of the proposals, at the instructions of the Congregation for Bishops.

These items include a new code of conduct for bishops, and the creation of a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct.

In their letter, the Missouri bishops wrote that they hoped their statement could help to provide direction for the fall general assembly, taking place in Baltimore Nov. 12-14.

While supporting the action items which were to have been voted on, the Missouri bishop had said, “we fear these measures will not be enough in either substance or timeliness to meet the demands that this pastoral crisis presents.”

“We must pay attention to that which threatens our communion with one another. Transparency, accountability, and genuine reform in the way in which the Church handles issues of abuse of power by the hierarchy are required,” they wrote.

In the letter the bishops expressed support for the establishment of a third-party hotline for complaints of sexual abuse by a bishop; the development of policies to restrict bishops who have been removed or resigned because of allegations; and a full investigation of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, with “competent laity” given access to “appropriate files held by the Holy See” as well as the relevant chanceries.

“We bishops need to publicly renew our commitment to utilizing the charisms of the laity in our exercise of pastoral governance as bishops,” they wrote.

“We cannot solve this crisis on our own. We need the laity to help us.”

McCarrick was able to perpetrate years of sexual abuse against seminarians while operating at the highest level of the Church in the United States. The bishops said many believe “there has been a breach of trust between the Church in the United States and the Holy See over the Archbishop McCarrick scandal and the consequent refusal to take immediate action for those reponsible. This breach of trust is already catastrophic and endagers the very communion of the Church.”

They noted that the Church's credibility “has already been seriously damaged by a persistent silence and inaction over many decades,” and said that the “immediate acceptance of resignations from all hierarchs who voluntarily resign because of their complicit action or inaction in the Archbishop McCarrick scandal would regain credibility and trust.”

“On behalf of our people, we recommend a complete and transparent investigation into Archbishop McCarrick’s advancement in responsibilities and how he continued to function as a Cardinal when his misconduct with seminarians and others was known,” the bishops wrote.

In addition, the bishops endorsed a revision of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to include measures to hold bishops accountable.

They also called on all diocese and eparchies, as well as religious institutes, societies of apostolic life, and secular institutes to release all known names of clerics credibly accused of abusing a minor.

Robert Carlson of St. Louis and his auxiliary and Mark Rivituso, W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, James Johnston of Kansas City-St. Joseph, and Edward Rice of Springfield-Cape Girardeau all signed the letter.

Tags: Clerical sex abuse, USCCB Fall General Assembly 2018