What Does Rome Want?

"The application of the policies adopted in Dallas can be the source of confusion and ambiguity." Is this response from the Vatican an honest one, or does it forecast serious trouble? Is it possible that some Vatican officials don’t get it? If so, the U.S. bishops negotiating a rewrite of the Dallas sexual-abuse norms will have to make sure they do. Vatican officials could have responded in other ways to the national norms that would be binding on U.S. Catholic bishops: they could have accepted them, at least provisionally, or rejected them outright (which presumably they would dare not do). Instead, four curial officials will involve themselves in questions about which their understanding appears to be gravely limited. Three of the four have made statements about clergy sexual abuse of children suggesting a woeful degree of ignorance, if not worse. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos has made recent statements minimizing the problem, and in a 1997 letter to Tucson bishop Manuel Moreno, he urged the bishop to allow an abusive priest to continue as a consultant to other dioceses. Moreno refused. Last spring, Archbishop Julian Herranz called pedophilia a form of homosexuality, and a third, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, has argued that bishops should not turn abusers over to civil authorities (Boston Globe, October 24).

The four members of the U.S. delegation—Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop William Levada, Bishop...

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