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Cardinal Cupich and Archbishop Scicluna at Vatican Abuse Summit, Feb. 22, 2019.

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Bishops, cardinals continue to fudge difficult questions at Vatican abuse summit

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ANALYSIS

VATICAN CITY, February 22, 2019, LifeSiteNews – Bishops and cardinals acting as spokespersons at the Vatican's currently running Abuse Summit appear to be doing their best to evade probing questions from journalists about the sexual abuse crisis rocking the Catholic Church. 

At this week’s third consecutive press conference, American journalists covering the Vatican Summit dealing with the sexual abuse of minors have found their most probing questions ignored or inadequately addressed by prelate spokespersons. In responding to question after question, officials appear oblivious to how poorly their insufficient responses reflect on themselves, the functioning of the hierarchy and the Holy See itself.  

Their response to difficult questions suggests that they know they are sitting atop a powder keg, fearing the smallest of sparks could explode something they desperately want to keep bottled up.  

“Can you tell me if you regret that more people in the U.S. hierarchy did not speak to ex-Cardinal McCarrick about his ‘problematic behavior,’” asked Reuter’s Phil Pullella, “even though [the press] knew about it—a lot of people knew about it?”

“I don’t know that bishops did not speak to him about his proclivities or his activities,” said O’Malley.

“I kind of hope that they did,” added O’Malley, “particularly people who may have been aware of this.”

That’s not what American Catholics want to hear—especially from a Cardinal who is President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.  

They want to hear something more like this: “Of course his brother bishops and priests confronted him on his behavior.”  The fact that none has admitted even being aware of his sinful homosexual conduct speaks loudly of the non-existence of brotherhood at the highest levels of our Church’s hierarchy.  

Pullella also asked, “When the investigations are over, “Do you expect heads to roll?” 

The prelates ignored that question. 

Another glaring example of stonewalling occurred today when LifeSiteNews’ Diane Montagna dared to link the majority of clergy abuse cases with “decades of a subculture of homosexuality and sins of sodomy, if we want to call it that, in the seminaries.” Montagna asked if the bishops and cardinals think it "important to address this sort of sin among the clergy, which fosters cover-up."

Archbishop Scicluna answered by rehashing his talking point from earlier in the week, declaring that this [active homosexuality in seminaries] “has nothing to do with the sexual abuse of minors.” The archbishop avoided using the term “homosexuality” and instead spoke of “misconduct.” Someone on the panel of bishops and cardinals then cut off Scicluna so he could not continue with his answer. Montagna was denied asking a follow-up question. 

CNN’s Delia Gallagher followed, asking, “How do you assure the American people that … that they can now believe what you are saying?” 

Cardinal Cupich spoke about the need for accountability in general terms, but he prefaced his response by making sure that everyone knew he himself was not, in fact, accountable because he wasn’t around when the most egregious cover-up efforts by U.S. Cardinals occurred.  

“I wasn’t, of course, there in 2002 as one of the cardinals,” noted Cupich.

“I would hope that any bishop who is aware of this kind of misbehavior would certainly make that known to the Holy See, and not feel in any way we should try and cover it up or turn a blind eye to it,” added Cardinal O’Malley.

The fact that a Cardinal—especially one who is President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors—would hint that “turning a blind eye” is still possible today speaks volumes about just how detached the morality and ethics of the hierarchy is from that of lay people.    

“Under your proposal today, Theodore McCarrick would have been a Metropolitan. Cardinal Law would have been a Metropolitan,” noted NBC’s Ann Thompson.  “So how does that inspire confidence?  And who in the world is going to police the Metropolitans?"

Thompson’s alarming question is one that should have been welcomed with an equal dose of alarm from the prelate panelists.  It was not.  

Instead, Cardinal Cupich offered a bureaucratic response, and referred to a footnote in his talk.   

While erecting a permanent structure to deal with sexual misconduct and cover-ups by those prelates at the highest levels in the Church is crucial, Cardinal Cupich overlooked the extreme levels of frustration and incredulity packed into Thompson’s question.  

At the previous day’s Vatican press conference, Pullella asked an equally searing question regarding the victim testimonies the Summit participants had heard.  

“It was hard enough for us who were only able to read those testimonies let alone for you who actually heard their voices.  Do you think that anybody who was in that room or beyond, after hearing those testimonies—any bishop—could still not ‘get it?’”

Yet after the conclusion of the press conference, observers are left to wonder how many of our prelates actually do “get it?” 

In the end, lay people around the world—particularly in the U.S.—are left with nagging questions:

  • How can it be that these men whom we thought were holy say they need to grow in understanding the severity of the problem of sexual abuse?  
  • Why do they have to "begin" to listen to victims more empathetically as a result of the Summit?  
  • Why can’t prelates at the Summit acknowledge the problem of homosexuality within their own ranks and the priesthood?  Why are prelates unable to utter the words “homosexuality” or “sodomy?”  Why is questioning about it met with such visceral denials?
  • How long will the hierarchy, working in conjunction with the Holy See, ignore the role of homosexuality in undermining and desecrating the priesthood, and in so doing, contributing to the weakening of the Church, shaking the faith of many?

As if to underscore the pastoral poverty of the prelates, top on Pope Francis’ list of 21 concrete steps offered to the bishops yesterday in order to deal with the sexual abuse crisis is to write a “Practical Handbook.”  

So far, there is little to inspire confidence that the bishops "get it." 

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Doug Mainwaring

Doug Mainwaring is a journalist for LifeSiteNews, an author, and a marriage, family and children's rights activist.  He has testified before the United States Congress and state legislative bodies, originated and co-authored amicus briefs for the United States Supreme Court, and has been a guest on numerous TV and radio programs.  Doug and his family live in the Washington, DC suburbs.