By Christopher Wells
In a statement issued on Monday, the President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, pledged to take up Pope Francis' challenge "to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice."
In his statement, he renews the Bishops' commitment to investigate questions surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who was disciplined by Pope Francis after charges McCarrick had abused a minor were found to be "credible" and "substantiated." The Holy Father shortly afterwards accepted McCarrick's resignation from the Cardinalate.
Cardinal DiNardo also made reference to questions raised by a letter from the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. "The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence," he wrote.
In his statment, Cardinal DiNardo said he had requested an Audience with Pope Francis "to earn his support for [the Bishops'] plan of action." He said, "I am confident the Pope Francis shares our desire for greater effectiveness and transparencyin the matter of disciplining bishops." Cardinal DiNardo added, "We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days."
The statement concluded with Cardinal DiNardo's words to survivors of abuse, and to famiies who have lost loved one's to abuse. "I am sorry,", he said. "You are no longer alone." After recalling steps the Bishops have already taken to address cases of abuse in the church, Cardinal DiNardo frankly acknowledged, "In other ways, we have failed you." But, he said, "We will do better."
Here is the complete text of the statement of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the USCCB:
"In communion with the Holy Father, I join the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in taking upon ourselves his exhortation, 'this open wound [of abuse] challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice.'
"On August 1st, I promised that USCCB would exercise the full extent of its authority, and would advocate before those with greater authority, to pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth. Yesterday, I convened our Executive Committee once again, and it reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.
"The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò brings particular focus and urgency to this examination. The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.
"I am eager for an audience with the Holy Father to earn his support for our plan of action. That plan includes more detailed proposals to: seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops. Inspired by his recent letter to the people of God, and his motu proprio of two years ago, As a Loving Mother, I am confident Pope Francis shares our desire for greater effectiveness and transparency in the matter of disciplining bishops. We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days.
"To the survivors of abuse and the families who have lost a loved one to abuse, I am sorry. You are no longer alone. Since 2002, hundreds of professionally trained staff across the country have been working with the Church to support survivors and prevent future abuse. Nationwide, the Church has a zero-tolerance policy toward priests and deacons who abuse, safe environment training, background checks for those working around children, victim assistance coordinators, prompt reporting to civil authorities, and lay review boards in dioceses.
"In other ways, we have failed you. This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetrated by a bishop. We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church's firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel. Lord, by the help of your mercy, show us the way to salvation."