The First-Place award for how NOT to handle an allegation of sexual assault goes to: Sen. Diane Feinstein of CA. Congratulations Senator for demonstrating extreme self-centeredness in using an alleged victim of sexual assault as a political prop. Someone in her leadership position is required by law, when they receive an allegation of this nature that includes the name of the alleged victim, alleged perpetrator and approximate location and time frame, to report the allegation to law enforcement, in this case to the Montgomery County, Maryland Police. By not reporting it she is probably guilty of the crime of failure to report (and so is the counselor to whom this allegation was first made in 2012 if it included the same information). Every one of you who has completed our Safe Environment Training knows this is the procedure to report an allegation. How is it that a lawmaker who helped make the law for mandatory reporting doesn’t herself follow it? If the Senator loses her upcoming re-election bid she could always try her hand a being a Bishop.
These types of allegations are sensitive in nature and should be handled with a high degree of prudence and sensitivity. Instead what we have witnessed is an allegation of sexual assault being weaponized for political partisan purposes. If Sen. Feinstein truly cares about the issue of sexual abuse and the trauma it causes its victims why did she keep the allegation hidden until it could be used for her political gain? Her actions are not the actions of one who understands the delicate nature of these allegations nor the requirements of justice. Ironically, the Senator is insisting that the FBI investigate the allegation. Well, Senator, if you want an investigation the solution is simple: pick up the phone and call the Montgomery Co. Police Department and make a report since they have jurisdiction and can bring a charge if warranted. Once you do they will begin an investigation.
The Second-Place award goes to: the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo, the current President of the USCCB and Archbishop Gomez of LA, the vice-president met with Pope Francis and requested an Apostolic Visitation in the US over the behavior and cover-up of the former Cardinal, McCarrick and the Viganó letter. (Asking for an Apostolic Visitation is sort of like asking the IRS to audit your taxes, not something that is usually done voluntarily.) The response of the Vatican has been no response at all. I will take that as a no.
Instead, Pope Francis has called for a meeting of all the Presidents of the Bishops Conferences world-wide to discuss the issue of clerical sexual abuse. The meeting is scheduled for February. Obviously, not a great sense of urgency on the part of the Pope. This is also the strategy of the media: focus on the issue of sexual abuse so as not to deal with the problem of some priests and bishops living double lives and that 80% of victims of clerical sexual abuse were young boys. Both the Pope and the media seem to have missed the statement in the PA Grand Jury Report (pg. 6) that acknowledged “much has changed over the last 15yrs”, that great strides have been made by the US Church to prevent abuse through proper screening and training and that internal controls are in place to immediately report allegations to law enforcement and remove offenders permanently from ministry in the Church.
In the meantime, the USCCB Executive Committee will put forth to the entire USCCB on its agenda for its November meeting several key action items: launch an investigation into the McCarrick-Affair; implement a process for disciplining US bishops for sexual abuse of a minor or misconduct with an adult and failure to report; and to establish a Third-Party system to receive reports about misconduct by Bishops (since they can’t police themselves). You can read the full agenda at http://www.usccb.org. This is a very good start on the part of the US Bishops. Sounds like the US Bishops are moving forward even if the Vatican drags its feet. Sadly, that does not bode well for US-Vatican relations in the future.
Finally, the award for Honorable Mention goes to the Catholic Bishops of Chile. Because of their failure to address the issue of sexual abuse and cover-up they are having their Offices and Chanceries raided by civil officials who are seizing all their files. How is it possible that they learned nothing from the past crisis of clerical sex abuse and cover-up in the US? While there are things in life that we each have to learn for ourselves, this is not one of them. But in their favor, I must admit I admire the fact that every bishop of Chile submitted his resignation to the Pope. So far, he has accepted around 8. Maybe the US Bishops could learn something here?
Locally, our Bishop has been meeting with the priests of the Diocese to discuss the current situation, possible solutions and changes that can move things forward in the Church. So, pray that these sessions bear fruit. And pray that yours truly, does shoot his mouth off, ranting and raving but speaks with clarity and charity.
Love, Fr. John B.
PS. Thanks to all of the hundreds of volunteers who have kept up with Safe Environment Training. Please know that you are not being fingered as a potential abuser but rather called to be a guardian of the well-being of our youth and vulnerable adults. Your diligent efforts have made a world of difference! Thank You!