By Devin Watkins
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, gave the closing speech of the USCCB’s Fall General Assembly, expressing hope for the future.
“My hope is first of all grounded in Christ, who desires that the Church be purified and that our efforts bear fruit,” he said.
The three-day meeting, held in Baltimore, Maryland, focused on how to address the question of sexual abuse or misconduct and negligence committed by some members of the clergy.
Fraternal affection for Pope Francis
Cardinal DiNardo noted that, in September, the Administrative Committee had “expressed for all of us our ‘love, obedience, and loyalty’ for Pope Francis.”
Speaking for the assembly, he said: “We the members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops pledge to His Holiness our loyalty and devotion in these difficult days.”
He also expressed hope for the Vatican meeting, set to take place in February 2019.
“I am sure that, under the leadership of Pope Francis, the conversation that the global Church will have in February will help us eradicate the evil of sexual abuse from our Church. It will make our local efforts more global and the global perspective will help us here.”
Pope Francis has convened the Presidents of all the Bishops’ Conferences to discuss the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
Direction for February meeting
Cardinal DiNardo said the USCCB Fall General Assembly has “given me direction and consensus” so as to represent the Church in the United States at the February meeting. “Listening is essential, but listening must inform decisive action.”
He then thanked the abuse survivors and experts who had given “such good counsel and direction” during the assembly.
Recalling the USCCB’s actions concerning the sexual abuse crisis, Cardinal DiNardo said the US Bishops had committed themselves to three goals: “to do what we could to get to the bottom of the Archbishop McCarrick situation; to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier; and, to develop a means of holding ourselves accountable that was genuinely independent, duly authorized, and had substantial lay involvement.”
He said the USCCB is “on course to accomplish these goals”. “That is the direction that you and the survivors of abuse across our country have given me for the February meeting in Rome.”
True reform requires holiness
Cardinal DiNardo said: “We leave this place committed to taking the strongest possible actions at the earliest possible moment. We will do so in communion with the Universal Church.”
“But”, he said, “our hope for true and deep reform ultimately lies in more than excellent systems, as essential as these are. It requires holiness: the deeply held conviction of the truths of the Gospel, and the eager readiness to be transformed by those truths in all aspects of life.”
Cardinal DiNardo reminded US Bishops of the Apostolic Nuncio’s remarks to the general assembly on Monday. Archbishop Christophe Pierre had said: “If the Church is to reform herself and her structures, then the reform must spring from her mission of making known Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
“No system of governance or oversight,” Cardinal DiNardo said, “however excellent and necessary, suffices alone to make us, weak as we all are, able to live up to the high calling we have received in Christ.”
United with the Pope
In conclusion, Cardinal DiNardo told US Bishops he is confident that, “in unity with the Holy Father and in conversation with the Universal Church in February we will move forward.”
“There is more to be done, but what we have done is a sign of hope.”