The do-nothings

The unprecedented meeting of the U.S. cardinals at the Vatican in April revealed significant disagreement on how to respond to the sex-abuse crisis in the United States. Were the differences among the American cardinals or between the Americans and curial officials? Or did the disagreements cut across curial-episcopal lines? Hard to know. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick did hint at the divergences in views when he said of missing words about the laity in the meeting’s closing statement: "Words are in, words are out."

Well, more words are out from Rome-out in public. They are words from mid-level bureaucrats and canonists in the Vatican. Among the propositions: bishops should not turn over the names of accused priests to civil authorities; bishops are not liable for the criminal acts of priests (unless they connive in them); bishops should not make civil settlements with victims; an accused priest cannot be required to have psychological tests or seek therapy; a priest’s past record of abuse should not be revealed in a new assignment. In other words, at least some in Rome propose the exact opposite of what the bishops in the United States are planning to promulgate nationally in June, and what many of them already practice in their own dioceses.

The "do-nothing" view is summed up in an article in the Jesuit publication La Civiltà Cattolica (May 20) by Gianfranco Ghirlanda, S.J., a canonist and consulter to...

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