U.S. Bishops to Halt Voting on Sex Abuse Measures

Photo Credit: Magical Planet

This years U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which started on November the 12th, was a high-stakes opportunity for the bishops to address their role in the ongoing crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church. Plenty of sex abuse scandals led to this crisis and it was expected for bishops to address it and take some actions during the U.S. catholic bishops’ assembly by making efforts to hold church members more responsible in the abuse cases. However, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) president, Daniel DiNardo, opened the event by declaring that the Vatican had issued a directive for Bishops to halt voting on sex abuse measures. The reason behind this last-minute instruction is the Vatican's decision is that U.S. bishops should wait until after a global meeting of church leaders at the Vatican in February about sexual abuse.

DiNardo, who has himself faced allegations this year of being too slow to rein in abusive priests, said: “At the insistence of the Holy See, we will not be voting on the two action items.”  As Religionnews.com reports, DiNardo also noted that the Vatican informed him of the shift the day before. He added that he was “disappointed” by the news and acknowledged others gathered likely share his concerns. This way reaction to the ongoing crisis has been postponed regardless the importance of the problem.  And the leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests agree that this is something that cannot be delayed. 

After the gathering, Zach Hiner, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, expressed frustration at the decision to push off the votes. “We’re disappointed that the Vatican has prevented the USCCB from taking even symbolic steps toward accountability for the clergy sex abuse crisis,” he said in a statement to Religion News Service. “Given that nearly one-third of American bishops have been accused of mishandling claims of sexual abuse, this meeting came at a critical moment and presented an opportunity for those bishops to begin working toward real accountability and prevention. Instead, the Vatican has kicked the can down the road. Hopefully this means that at the meeting [in February], the Vatican will be implementing real reform and not empty codes of conduct.”

Vatican leaders may be concerned about U.S. bishops setting a standard on their own, instead of working with their fellow church leaders globally at the February meeting.  But, If there was a possibility that the conference could result in small steps towards stopping or preventing sex abuse in future, is it reckless for the Vatican to delay it?

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