Intense debate among bishops over handling of abuse scandal

Cardinal Roger Mahony urged greater collegiality, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone reported on what he has heard from the faithful, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron asked for "respectful pressure" on Vatican

USCCB meeting November 2018. (Credit: CNS photo/Bob Roller)

More than 20 bishops and cardinals offered passionate interventions during an open floor discussion on the sex abuse crisis at the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon.

More bishops wanted to speak, but due to time constraints, their comments were reserved for the next morning.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), opened the discussions with the announcement that he had created a “deliberately small” task force, comprised of himself and the former presidents of the USCCB.

The task force, which includes DiNardo and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, and Archbishop Wilton Gregory, will work closely with the committees of the conference to examine instances of abuse and mishandling of abuse cases, and their work will culminate in a report presented at the next bishops’ meeting in June, DiNardo said.

Afterwards DiNardo opened the floor to any comments on the task force or the issue of the sex abuse crisis at large.

Cardinal Roger Mahony, who has been barred from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles for the mishandling and cover-up of abuse cases involving minors and priests there, opened up the comments from the bishops, urging them to seek a greater collegiality amongst themselves as “brother bishops.”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco gave a long intervention in which he described what he has been hearing from Catholics in his area.

“We’ve heard how important it is to listen to our people, I’ve held listening sessions in my own Archdiocese” regarding the abuse scandal, he said.

From his listening sessions, Cordileone said he has found that Catholics tend to fall in one of two camps regarding the abuse crisis: the first camp believes that the Church is not talking about the real problem, which is the prevalence homosexuality among the clergy and its correlation with abuse, he said.

The second camp believes that the real problem is an all-male hierarchy, “because women would never have allowed this to happen,” and therefore women must be invited in to all levels of the clergy.

Cordileone, who clarified that he was merely reporting what he found among his people, said that both conclusions are overly simplistic, but neither are without some merit.

“We do sometimes act as a good old boys club,” he said, with problems of “cronyism, favoritism, and cover-up.” He urged the bishops to find solutions to these “legitimate concerns” of Catholics in the second camp.

When considering the first camp, Cordileone cautioned against the “overly simplistic” conclusion that homosexuality causes sexual abuse. That “obviously cannot be true” he said, as some priests with homosexual tendencies faithfully serve the Church, while some heterosexually priests serve the Church poorly.

Still, the concern “has some validity,” he said, pointing to a recently-published study by Father D. Paul Sullins, a Catholic priest and retired Catholic University of America sociology professor. Sullins’ analysis found a rising trend in abuse, and argued that the evidence strongly suggests links between sexual abuse of minors and two factors: a disproportionate number of homosexual clergy, and the manifestation of a “homosexual subculture” in seminaries.

“The worst thing we could do is discredit this study so we can ignore or deny this reality,” Cordileone said. “We have to lean into it…to ignore it would be fleeing from the truth.”

The archbishop recommended further studies into the correlation between homosexuality and sexual abuse, one that avoids “quick and easy answers” and would attempt to find the root causes of this correlation.

Cordileone’s was the first intervention met with applause from many bishops.

Another California bishop, Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles, followed Cordileone’s comments by asking about the status of the Vatican investigation into the accusations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and whether the bishops might “bring any respectful pressure to bear” to the Holy See on furthering the investigation.

DiNardo responded, saying that he knew that the four dioceses in which McCarrick had served had opened investigations, but he did not know of the status of a Vatican investigation on the matter.

In his comments, Bishop Robert Daniel Conlon of Joliet, Illinois, said he agreed with an earlier suggestion of Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, that the remedy for the abuse crisis and accusations against bishops may already be found in the bishop’s charters and laws.

“People say the Church is hung up on sex, this is evidence of that,” he said regarding the debate about the sex abuse crisis. “We are capable of malfeasance in many other areas as well,” he said. “I promised celibacy during (ordinations),” he added, “and I have to say I’m a little chagrined to be asked to sign something that says I will be accountable to certain standards.”

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, a “small rural area” with a minority Catholic population, gave a notably strong intervention, in which he asked the bishops to consider how McCarrick got to be in the positions that he was “if we really believed that what was going on was wrong?”

“It’s part of our deposit of faith that we believe homosexual activity is immoral,” he said. “How did he get promoted if we are all of one mind that this is wrong? Do we believe the doctrine of the Church or not?”

Strickland said that while homosexual people are “children of God who deserve great care” and not personal condemnation, the Church should teach clearly that homosexual actions are sinful, and help people move from sin to virtue.

“There’s a priest that travels around saying that he doesn’t (believe this teaching), and he’s well promoted in various places,” Strickland said. “Can that be presented in our dioceses? That same-sex marriage is just fine and that the Church may one day grow to understand that? That’s not what we teach.”

Strickland’s intervention was also followed by applause from numerous bishops.

DiNardo commented that he personally reads “thousands” of letters that the “people of God” have sent to the USCCB.

“If there’s one thing that nags at everyone, it’s the Archbishop McCarrick thing,” he said. “It seems to be ubiquitous. This is the one that I think has to be addressed, it’s just bad for our people.”

Full story at Catholic News Agency.


  1. While the theme of this article below from the CNA, is to be expected from the Circus in Baltimore, note the opreative word in the title. I won’t say it here, but it begins with a “B”:

  2. Steve Seitz says

    I think Archbishop Cordileone is on to something. If the solution to the problem is men being in charge, then I have the solution. We should install in every diocese a small team of discalced Carmelite nuns (OCD) and give them oversight authority over all clergy disciplinary cases and the vocations office.

    I’ve known a few Carmelites. They’re humble, meek, faithful and tough as nails.

    • Good point on having women.

      After all, St. Catherine of Sienna made the pope return to Rome from his cushy place in Avignon.

  3. Catherine P says

    How despicable!

    The fact that the disgraced Cardinal Roger Mahony is still a Cardinal, still a priest, still a decision maker and influence peddler, says it all.

    These bishops are not fisherman, not shepherds.

    While Abp Cordeleone makes his earnest statements, he allow the Gay Men’s Chorus to perform at our Catholic Church—St. Ignatius where the homosexualas will celebrate their 40th “birthday” of performances.

    • Linda Maria says

      Yes, they certainly are not fishermen nor shepherds! They are all phony, un-Christian, “Mafia-style” “partners in crime!” And “Cardinal” Mahoney should have long ago been severely punished, laicized and excommunicated!

  4. This latest report, describing the USCCB’s vote AGAINST asking the Vatican to release the information it has about the former Cdl. McCarrick shows the USCCB”s complicity in hiding the facts and insincerity:

  5. What about Abp C’s second group — women would never have let this happen. Mentioned and quickly dropped in the article. Is the Boy’s club afraid the girls may have a point?

    • Terry P. Fleur says

      Dispatch a squad of Carmelite and Dominican nuns there. They will make sure that the job gets done properly, and without delay!

  6. Michael McDermott says

    Given that Over 90% of the abuse was Homosex Ephebophiles targeting of Boys – how can anyone deny that if the Church had followed its own teachings on the Objectively Disordered nature of such acts & the prohibition of Ordination of such Men – that the vast majority of these horrid abuses could have been avoided?
    BTW – Does ‘Fr.” Martin have an exemption?

    Vatican reiterates that homosexuals shouldn’t be priests

    men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” shouldn’t be admitted into Catholic seminaries and, therefore, shouldn’t become Catholic priests.

    “cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality,…

  7. A classroom full of kindergarten children could accomplish more than this collection of old men dressed in religious garb. If I were these guys, I would be afraid to wear my religious garb when traveling home or when out in public.

  8. Archbishop Cordileone never fails to disappoint.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.