By Sr Bernadette Reis, fsp
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) opened its Fall General Assembly on Monday. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, Conference President, addressed the Bishops using a quotation from St Augustine, “In order that weakness might become strong, strength became weak.”
To abuse survivors
As the United States Bishops prepare to discuss “greater episcopal accountability” over the next two days, Cardinal DiNardo began by addressing abuse survivors directly.
“Where I have not been watchful or alert to your needs, wherever I have failed, I am deeply sorry”, Cardinal DiNardo said. He then reminded the Bishops of Jesus’ warning to “Watch!”, and admitted, “in our weakness, we fell asleep”.
Healing begins by asking forgiveness
Although new allegations are a “small fraction of what they were”, he said, “we must search for every child of God whose innocence is lost to a horrific predator at any time”. Jesus himself went after the one and left the 99 in the desert, he said.
Healing begins with forgiveness, the Cardinal continued. He then asked the Bishops to be ready to ask for forgiveness. He then did so himself:
“To the survivors I have let down by what I have failed to do, please forgive me. To those who have lost faith in the Church, please forgive us for our failures.”
Standards of accountability
Cardinal DiNardo then enumerated all of the efforts made by the Church in the US to protect children: extensive safe environment training and background checks for Church employees, review boards, victim’s assistance coordinators, zero tolerance policy regarding “priests and others serving the Church”.
“Brother bishops, to exempt ourselves from these high standards of accountability is unacceptable and cannot stand. In fact, we, as successors to the apostles, must hold ourselves to the highest possible standard. Doing anything less insults those working to protect and heal from the scourge of abuse. “
The Cardinal then said that the Bishops need to expand their understanding and deal with sexual misconduct more intensely. This means taking “every precaution that our example not lead a single person away from the Lord”. He then challenged his brother Bishops reminding them that the world is looking to them and forming an opinion.
“Whether we will be remembered as guardians of the abused or the abuser will be determined by our actions beginning this week.”
We have fallen
Picking up St Augustine’s words again, the Cardinal admitted, “Brothers, we have fallen into a place of great weakness”. He prayed that they might become strong once again through the “grace and mercy of Jesus Christ” to better serve others. The Cardinal ended by asking the Bishops to humble themselves as sinners before the Lord to receive mercy.
“In this way, we can begin to clean and heal the lacerations in the Body of Christ. May God bless you.”