When in Dallas

 

When the Catholic bishops meet in Dallas, June 13-15, they face a daunting task. They have three days to respond convincingly to a scandal that has escalated out of control and done great damage to the people of God. What the bishops do is of critical importance for the future of the Catholic Church in the United States. How they do it is equally important. Rote apologies and evasive churchspeak will not do. Openness, honesty, and decisiveness are needed. Though individual bishops exhibit these qualities, this is not the normal style of the hierarchy collectively. Even at its best, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops conducts business slowly, methodically, with diligent committee meetings behind closed doors and key matters shaded by compromise or ambiguity. Sorry, not this time. In Dallas, the bishops must distinguish two tasks, the first to be done immediately, and a second that, realistically, will have to wait. Unless they are bold and decisive enough about the first, no one will be satisfied with promises about the second. Now is the time to approve a binding national policy on handling cases of sexual molestation of minors by priests, and it must not be waylaid by reasonable differences over interpreting the problematic catch phrase "zero tolerance." The policy should be specific and comprehensive, built on the experience and rules already in place in many dioceses: Review boards with lay...

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