This short article, McCarrick, the Bishops and Unanswered Questions addresses the Church’s failure to hold Bishops accountable. Members of the Diocese of Jefferson City should read it and think about their own interaction with the Diocese and it’s clergy. We post excerpts with the most relevant points because a Bishop’s behaviour affects that of his priests and that’s the key one may use to unlock the troubling things that have occurred here, culminating with the Transgender Process. The Process did not likely appear out of nowhere. This blog has no authority to investigate or discipline Bishops but we do want to quietly catalogue what happens so that, when a scandal erupts, no one good or bad can say that they weren’t warned and didn’t know to investigate. Highlighting and italics are ours.
William Lori, then bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut, said that the drafting committee “decided we would limit it to priests and deacons, as the disciplining of bishops is beyond the purview of this document. ‘Cleric’ would cover all three, so we decided not to use the word ‘cleric.’”
Now, as the McCarrick scandal continues to take shape, the decision to omit bishops themselves from the charter and to focus exclusively on priests seems to some Catholics to be gravely naive, or to be a symbol for the failure of bishops to hold one another accountable.
Church-watchers have often recognized that many American bishops tend to strenuously avoid criticizing one another, or publicly calling attention to one another’s faults, preferring the appearance of affable collegiality, even amid significant substantive disagreement.
The McCarrick allegations suggest to some that those tendencies have led to a situation in which, in practice, there is one set of rules regarding the behavior of priests and deacons in the Church and another set of rules for bishops.
McCarrick is the most prominent American bishop who continued to enjoy a public life even after being accused of abuse-related misconduct or neglect, and the accusations against him are the most grave.
While it is unlikely that any of those bishops will again be appointed to leadership positions in the Church, some have asked whether they will face formal Vatican charges. As McCarrick’s long tenure in the Church raises questions about whether bishops have a propensity to protect one another, and whether the Vatican fails to appreciate the significance of sexual misconduct, those questions have taken on particular urgency.
And there may still be bishops who believe that preventing a scandal is a worthwhile endeavor, without considering the costs of that decision to those who are harmed when a bishop acts immorally. The costs of that decision are borne, most gravely, by those who are directly harmed by acts of abuse on the part of any cleric. Their wounds cry out to God for justice.
But when a bishop behaves with sexual immorality, the effects ripple across his entire diocese. Priests and seminarians who object to that sexual immorality leave quickly, or find themselves marginalized. Those who rise to leadership positions are those who are left: those who are willing to accept the bishop’s sexual immorality, those who are complicit in it, or those who are too naive to notice it. Those in the first two categories, being willing to accept some rejections of Catholic teaching, are usually also likely to accept other rejections of Catholic teaching. That can be reflected in their pastoral leadership and catechesis, and, consequently, an entire diocese can be formed with a theological perspective framed by relativism, tolerance of immorality or compromise. The effects of a bishop’s sexual immorality can lead to spiritual and catechetical decline across an entire diocese.