[A rough English translation of article that appeared in La Croix December 10, 2020]
by Alexis Buisson, La Croix
Analysis— Tired, angry, disappointed… For American Catholics, the publication of the McCarrick report by the Holy See on November 10 was yet another blow. A month after its release, they are looking for reasons to be optimistic about the possibilities of reforming an already largely discredited Church.
A month after the publication of the McCarrick report by the Vatican, American Catholics “are extremely tired, to the point of being cynical,” said David Gibson. The former journalist, who knows ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick well for covering his rise, is cited in the nearly 450-page document on the flaws that allowed the former prelate to rise to the top of the Church American despite numerous suspicions of sexual abuse brought to the attention of his hierarchy, including Pope John Paul II, who appointed him Archbishop of Washington in 2000.
“The report was eagerly awaited, but many Catholics saw it as the next chapter in a depressing long novel, even though the investigation was impressive and important to publish,” Gibson continues.
Since its release on November 10, anger has not abated in the United States. In the press, the forums of indignant priests or laymen have flourished, as have podcast episodes and online conferences to analyze the content and questions left unanswered by this document relating to the entire career of “Ted” McCarrick , dismissed from the clerical state in 2019. The Washington Post editorial committee went so far as to publish a text denouncing clericalism and urging the episcopate to better recognize the role of the laity in the supervision of the ecclesial hierarchy.
“Have we lost all moral authority? “
The Conference of American Bishops, which met after the report was released, discussed its findings, but the debate, added to the program at the last minute, left a taste of unfinished business despite the avenues of reform put forward by the bishops. “They should have expressed their distress, their grief, but they did not say anything about the importance of healing,” said Peter Daly, a retired priest who worked with Theodore McCarrick when he was Archbishop of Washington. The entire Church hierarchy was challenged by the report, but the bishops spent more time talking about Joe Biden! Have we lost all moral authority? “.
In Washington, he says, there are still members of the clergy who live in denial of Theodore McCarrick’s actions. There are also those who prefer not to confide in journalists or who have not had the strength to read the report. “We have been deprived of a moment to discuss it all together because many parishioners are unwilling or unable to visit their churches due to Covid-19,” adds Hosffman Ospino, a Colombian theologian who teaches at Boston College. A vicious circle has set in since the first revelations of pedophilia in the 2000s. We tell ourselves that there will be another similar report in five or ten years, ”he observes, fatalistic.
Public reactions from Hispanic Catholics have been almost nonexistent, perhaps because of the popularity of Theodore McCarrick, a Spanish speaker who lived in Puerto Rico, within this community, the real engine of the American Church, or because a many of these believers arrived in the United States after the wave of sexual abuse of the 1960s and 1970s and the adoption of the “Dallas Charter” for the protection of minors in 2002, recalls Hosffman Ospino.
“That doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. Long-time immigrants, rooted in their faith, will stay in the Church, but Hispanic youth, born in the United States, are turning away, not least because they do not trust the institution. The publication of such reports confirms their mistrust. “
“Nothing will change without personal conversion”
Jennifer Kane read the entire report, “including the footnotes.” A “spiritually trying” exercise for this laywoman from the Diocese of Buffalo (New York State). Parishioners have since been struck by another sledgehammer: the November 23 release of the findings of the New York Attorney General’s investigation into the cover-up of sex crimes in the diocese […].
Bishop Richard Malone took early retirement in 2019 amid calls for resignation. “Many parishioners did not want to read the McCarrick report. It reminds us of what we have already seen/experienced in our churches,” she says. In 2018, a group of lay people launched the “Movement to Restore Trust” to rebuild the diocese. Insufficient, according to Jennifer Kane. “The Church can reform, but it will take a long and painful period of penance because the hierarchy is corrupt. The Vatican can produce all the paperwork it wants, but nothing will change until the bishops, cardinals, priests, and laity involved engage in personal conversion.”
Progress since the Boston scandal in 2002
Strengthening of the mechanisms of control over members of the clergy, greater involvement of the laity in inquiries and even the appointment of bishops, authorization of the marriage of priests and ordination of women: Catholics have no shortage of ideas for reforming the Church. Some recognize the progress made since the scandal of the pedophile priests of Boston in 2002. In the wake of the apostolic letter of François Vos estis lux mundi in 2019, a site and a number dedicated to the reporting of bishops suspected of covering sexual crimes are come to reinforce the existing systems.
“The number of incidents of child sexual abuse has declined dramatically since the 1980s, with the implementation of educational programs, criminal background checks and the removal of criminals,” said Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent who headed the office of the American Episcopal Conference on the Protection of Minors. Regular, if not daily, efforts must be made by Church officials to show that they live the gospel and provide safe environments for Catholics. “
Father Daniel Griffith, in Minneapolis, agrees: “The Rome anti-abuse summit, Vos estis and the McCarrick report are steps forward. Institutional change will be measured against concrete actions of transparency and accountability on the part of Church leaders. “