Looking into Philly

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According to
Bishop Blase J. Cupich of Spokane, Wash., when they come together in
Seattle in June for their semi-annual meeting, the U.S. Catholic bishops
will be looking into whether there was “some sort of the breakdown of
the system” that led to the D.A.’s investigation of more than two dozen
priests in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. Cupich, who chairs the
bishops’ Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, told
the Catholic News Service that he thinks what happened in the City of
Not-So-Brotherly-Love on Cardinal Rigali’s watch was an aberration, and
such is devoutly to be wished.

But let’s say that the system
established by the 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and
Young People” is found to have broken down, what then? (And how could it
not have broken down?)

The problem is that the system was not equipped with any mechanism to deal with bishops who choose to withhold the hem of their cassocks from the system. For example, the system expects all dioceses to participate in prescribed annual abuse audits, but if the bishops of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Baker, Oregon, decline to participate, they get to do so with impunity. Because, God forbid, the episcopal collectivity may never call one of its own to account.

In the U.S., that is. In Ireland, the system works a little differently. There, they’ve set up a church oversight panel called the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, which conducts its own investigations. This may not work perfectly, but as John Allen points out, it was its investigation of the diocese of Clough several years ago–and its severe criticism of Bishop John Magee–that led to a forthcoming government review (as well as Magee’s resignation last year). The National Review Board established by the 2002 Charter does not have the power to conduct investigations.

I have a suggestion for you, Bishop Cupich. In light of Philadelphia, how about proposing a move to the Irish system?

  • Victims4Justice

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  • We have an even better suggestion for Bishop Cupich: Demand the Catholic Conference of Bishops to stop lobbying against removing statute of limitations for sex crimes against children, and let the law enforcement take care of this mess.
    This is the only sure way to protect kids. Criminals have to be held accountable.
    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”

  • John Shuster

    Here in WA State, a bill to abolish the statute of limitations for child rape was killed this month by two legally-controlling senators after it passed the house of representatives unanimously. It could be that all the child rapists in the state got together and lobbied the two senators, but more likely a big church with lots of predators and even more money brought them a deal that could not refuse. Americans scoff at the way mullahs run Middle Eastern governments. It’s not all that different here, but just as damaging.