When in Rome

 

As we go to press, thirteen U.S. cardinals are meeting with the pope and his advisers in an effort to formulate a response and a policy that can restore the church’s credibility in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal. Will this extraordinary meeting succeed at its appointed task? After initially seeming to ignore the crisis, the pope and the Roman bureaucracy made a sudden turnabout, apparently after being convinced of the magnitude of the problem by visiting American bishops and Cardinal Bernard Law. It is good that Rome has finally recognized the gravity of the situation. But if the pope continues to rely on Law as well as a few other prominent conservative American bishops and theologians, it is unlikely that he or the Vatican will come to understand the depth and scale of the mistrust felt by a significant portion of the laity toward much of the church’s hierarchy. Certainly the pope and the church’s cardinals and bishops must correct the mistakes of the past. But the high drama of summoning the cardinals to Rome should not detract attention from the fact that, with few exceptions, these very men-and unfortunately John Paul II must be included here-are the ones responsible for much of the damage in the first place. Preliminary reports on the meeting’s agenda give some reason for optimism. The Vatican and the American bishops now recognize the importance of putting in place a coordinated nationwide policy for...

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