The Catholic Church is currently facing a scandal of historic proportions in the United States. A grand jury report in Pennsylvania revealed the details of 70 years of abuse committed by more than 300 priests. There were more than 1,000 victims. Several more states are now in various stages of conducting investigations similar to the one done in Pennsylvania.
The pope has done little to acknowledge the scandal so far. He wrote a letter, but in the letter he really only offered "penance and prayer" as solutions. In a recent homily at the Vatican, Pope Francis asked his lord and savior to "give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent.”
Uh, yeah, that is not very subtle, dude... But, this is the same pope who earlier this year had to apologize after he accused victims of sexual abuse of slander for publicly accusing priests.
Tomorrow, Pope Francis will meet with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. DiNardo is the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, the pope's adviser on clergy sex abuse (and the president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors), will also be attending the meeting, as will Archbishop Jose Gomez, who is the vice president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Monsignor Brian Bransfield, who serves as general secretary of the conference, will also attend.
DiNardo requested this meeting in a public letter he sent last month. DiNardo was motivated to request the meeting because of the then-recent news about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of abusing several seminarians and an altar boy. McCarrick denies the allegations about the altar boy, although he has yet to address the allegations about the seminarians.
In DiNardo's letter, he laid out goals that he and his colleagues had in requesting the meeting. First, they wish to open an investigation "into the questions surrounding" McCarrick. Second, they would like to open "new and confidential channels" for reporting complaints about bishops. And third, they would like more effective ways of resolving future complaints.
According to DiNardo, he and the other members of the conference have "begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican."
The kind of investigation into McCarrick that DiNardo is requesting requires the approval of the Vatican. After all the instances of the church keeping investigations "in-house" I do find it at least a little promising that DiNardo included the "laity" in his list of who should be involved in future investigations. Of course, until it gets approved it does not mean much.
In November, in Baltimore, the US bishops will convene their next meeting. They will likely be using a significant portion of their time together to discuss DiNardo's plans and goals.
We will have to wait and see how the meeting with the pope, and the November meeting play out. The public is demanding action, and so far Pope Francis has really only offered "silence" and "prayer" as solutions to this crisis.