Pope Francis has just concluded an emergency summit with U.S. bishops over the growing sex abuse crisis and cover-up scandal that has impacted the Roman Catholic Church in the wake of the revelations in by a Pennsylvania grand jury and the details offered in a letter recently published by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who served a a Vatican diplomat in Washington D.C. from 2011 to 2016.
Shortly after the meeting, Vatican officials announced a new investigation into a West Virginia bishop accused of molesting adults.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and his deputy, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Horacio Gomez, were among prelates who flew to the Vatican after a former Washington archbishop, Theodore McCarrick, was stripped of his cardinal’s red hat in light of claims that he abused an altar boy in the 1970s.

As the four-man delegation filed in to see the pope, the Vatican announced Francis had accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield, while the bishop’s diocese said William Lori, the archbishop of Baltimore, would investigate claims Bransfield had sexually harassed adults.

A hotline was set up by the Wheeling-Charleston diocese in West Virginia to take calls from victims stepping forward.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston also requested a full Vatican investigation into the charges against McCarrick, stating he wanted answers to allegations Vatican officials, including Pope Francis, ignored McCarrick’s abuse and promoted him anyway.

“These answers,” Cardinal DiNardo said, “are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions.”

The Washington Post offers some insight to McCarrick, who was in charge of selecting seminarians who would then go on to become priests. The article focuses on the 1986 experiences a then 26-year-old Michael Reading, who was studying for the priesthood and had heard the stories about McCarrick’s notorious beach house.

…Eventually, Reading says, McCarrick appeared, dressed in shorts and a polo shirt. He sat near Reading as the young men began to joke about going for a swim, teasing the archbishop that he ought to take a dip.

McCarrick laughed along with them, Reading recalls. “Then he slid his hand down the back of my swimsuit, and said, ‘You’re dry.’ ” McCarrick’s hand rested there, on the bare skin of his buttocks, under the fabric of his swimsuit, Reading told me. “I was dumbfounded. I was frozen. I didn’t know what to do or say,” Reading told me.

Reading is no longer a practicing priest. He indicates that his experience with McCarrick left him feeling neglected and devalued by his superiors.

I attended a town hall with my local parish, to discuss the crisis. It was headed by our priest and two deacons, and the level of anger at the Catholic church leadership was directed at both the abuse and the cover-up. I noted that many who attended were particularly angry, as this is the second major sex scandal that they have had to confront in recent memory, and it was their donations that footed the settlement bill.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles had to pay $660 million to 508 victims through a negotiated settlement, according to BishopAccountability.org, a website that chronicles the abuse scandal. The Diocese of San Diego settled with 144 victims in bankruptcy court for $198 million, while the Diocese of Davenport, Iowa, settled with 162 victims for $37 million, also in bankruptcy court, according to the website.

The abuse and subsequent cover-ups have cost Catholics talented priests, and diverted monies that could have gone to church construction, Catholic programs, or critical charities. Beyond these consequences, I would conclude based on the comments I heard that the bond of trust between the laity and the upper echelon of leadership has been severed.

The new investigation is a step in the right direction, but there is a lot more that will have to be done…especially by Pope Francis himself. It’s time for him to focus on changing the climate of the Catholic Church.


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