I. What are the current scandals surrounding the Catholic Church today?
Catholics were saddened and angered to learn of allegations against Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and the alleged cover-ups exposed by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury report regarding dioceses in that state.
Archbishop McCarrick, the former cardinal and retired archbishop of Washington, resigned the cardinalate after accusations that he had abused minors as a young priest were found credible. Other questions surround how he was able to rise through the ranks of the Church after allegations against him surfaced over the years.
The Pennsylvania attorney general held a news conference Aug. 14 announcing a 900-page report detailing decades of child sexual abuse by 301 priests, who harmed more than 1,000 victims.
In a pastoral letter, Bishop Olmsted and Auxiliary Bishop Nevares expressed their “deep level of sadness and anger.”
“These shameful and evil actions have harmed many innocent people, especially the young; and they are utterly inexcusable,” the bishops said. “This has also caused great pain, confusion and dismay among us all — laity, religious and clergy — who remain committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are sorry that you have had to endure this anguish.”
II. How is this impacting the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Phoenix?
The Diocese of Phoenix was in the midst of its own sexual abuse crisis more than 15 years ago. Thanks to the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, implemented in 2002, and a 2003 agreement with the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the Diocese of Phoenix continues to be proactive in providing training for Church employees and volunteers and providing healing for survivors.
In 2002-2003, the Diocese of Phoenix released its records to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for investigative review, and now maintains a public listing of clergy against whom a credible allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor has been made. (Read List)
In 2004, the Diocese of Phoenix and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office co-sponsored a historic summit on sexual abuse. It was attended by 350 people from the community and educated members of the Church, the public and the private sector on how to identify and deal with sexual misconduct against children. To this day, the Diocese of Phoenix and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office work together on matters involving criminal allegations.
The Diocese of Phoenix has made great strides in fulfilling our promise to protect children, educate our communities, and bring healing to those who have suffered abuse. In light of recent abuse scandals, now is an important time for the Church to recall what has been learned, to keep in prayer those who are victims, and to recommit ourselves to vigilance in our Catholic community to protect our children from the evils of abuse.
III. What is this I’m seeing about a letter from Archbishop Viganò?
In his 11-page letter, published Aug. 26, Archbishop Viganò accused Church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on accusations of abuse of conscience and power by now-Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick. Archbishop Viganò claimed he told Pope Francis about Cardinal McCarrick in 2013.
Archbishop Viganò, who served as nuncio to the United States from 2011 to 2016, wrote that he was compelled to write his knowledge of Archbishop McCarrick’s misdeeds because “corruption has reached the very top of the Church’s hierarchy.”
Bishop Olmsted issued a statement Aug. 27 asking that the questions raised by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, former nuncio to the United States, in a letter published by two Catholic media outlets, “be taken seriously and his claims be investigated thoroughly.”
“Although I have no knowledge of the information that he reveals in his written testimony of Aug. 22, 2018 so I cannot personally verify its truthfulness, I have always known and respected him as a man of truthfulness, faith and integrity,” Bishop Olmsted said.
SEPTEMBER 27, 2018: Archbishop Viganò claims Vatican official has evidence of cover-up
In a new letter released on Sept. 27, Archbishop Viganò called on Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, to release information about alleged private sanctions imposed by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI on then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick.
He also called on leaders of the U.S. bishops’ conference, who had a private meeting with Pope Francis Sept. 13, to say if the pope refused “to carry out a Vatican investigation into McCarrick’s crimes and those responsible for covering them up.”
OCTOBER 6, 2018: Vatican reviewing McCarrick case, vows to pursue truth no matter what
Promising a thorough review of how the Vatican handled allegations of sexual misconduct by Archbishop McCarrick, the Vatican acknowledged that what happened may fall short of the procedures that are in place today.
“The Holy See is conscious that, from the examination of the facts and of the circumstances, it may emerge that choices were taken that would not be consonant with a contemporary approach to such issues. However, as Pope Francis has said: ‘We will follow the path of truth wherever it may lead,'” the Vatican said in a statement released Oct. 6.
The Executive Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had said in August that they would seek such an investigation, and leaders of the bishops’ conference met with Pope Francis Sept. 13 to tell him how the church in the United States has been “lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse.”
Renewing its commitment to uncovering the truth, the Vatican also said that information gathered from its investigation as well as “a further thorough study” of its archives regarding the former cardinal will be released “in due course.” Learn More at Catholic News Service
OCTOBER 7, 2018: Cardinal Ouellet responds to Archbishop Vigano on McCarrick case
Former Cardinal McCarrick had been told by Vatican officials to withdraw from public life because of rumors about his sexual misconduct, said Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. Read Cardinal Ouellet’s letter
However, because they were only rumors and not proof, then-Pope Benedict XVI never imposed formal sanctions on the retired Washington prelate, which means Pope Francis never lifted them, Cardinal Ouellet wrote Oct. 7 in an open letter to Archbishop Vigano.
Cardinal Ouellet’s letter, written with the approval of Pope Francis, was published the day after the Vatican said the pope had ordered a “thorough study of the entire documentation present in the archives of the dicasteries and offices of the Holy See regarding the former Cardinal McCarrick in order to ascertain all the relevant facts, to place them in their historical context and to evaluate them objectively.” Learn More at Catholic News Service
OCTOBER 19, 2018: Archbishop Vigano claims vindication after Cardinal Ouellet’s response
Archbishop Vigano said he is convinced he was right to accuse Pope Francis and church officials of failing to act on accusations that then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick engaged in sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
Archbishop Vigano, the former nuncio to the United States, said an open letter released Oct. 7 by Cardinal Marc Ouellet confirmed many of the allegations he first made in late August, when he called on Pope Francis to resign.
The archbishop’s response to Cardinal Ouellet was published Oct. 19 by Italian blogger Marco Tosatti.
“Cardinal Ouellet has written to rebuke me for my temerity in breaking silence and leveling such grave accusations against my brothers and superiors, but in truth his remonstrance confirms me in my decision and, even more, serves to vindicate my claims,” Archbishop Vigano said. Learn More at The Catholic Sun
IV. What are the U.S. Catholic Bishops doing to combat these scandals and protect our children and youth?
MAY 9, 2019: Pope issues new norms on mandatory abuse reporting, bishop accountability
Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse.
The new juridical instrument is meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care. For this reason, the new document establishes a clearer set of universal procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and protecting victims and whistleblowers.
The new document, given “motu proprio,” on the pope’s own initiative, was titled “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”), based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:14).
Read the motu proprio with the revised and clarified norms and procedures
Read the response from Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
NOVEMBER 14, 2018: President of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Makes Statement at Close of Fall General Assembly
On the final day of the public sessions of the U.S. Bishops fall general assembly in Baltimore, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, delivered the following remarks. Read Cardinal DiNardo’s full address
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Administrative Committee issued a statement Sept. 19 in response to the recent sex abuse scandals. In the statement, the bishops say they pledge to “heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us.”
The Administrative Committee took the following actions within its authority:
- Approved the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will receive confidentially, by phone and online, complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop and will direct those complaints to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.
- Instructed the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.
- Initiated the process of developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding the sexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.
- Supported a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, including his alleged assaults on minors, priests, and seminarians, as well any responses made to those allegations. Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.
The Bishops went on to state:
Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts, and other laity along with clergy and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice. We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.
Any allegations of sexual abuse are reported to law enforcement.