Several of Illinois’ Catholic bishops recently released statements regarding sex abuse allegations made public earlier this week in a Pennsylvania grand jury report, following on the heels of news of credible claims made against retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C.
The Pennsylvania grand jury report details allegations going back 70 years involving more than 300 priests and more than 1,000 victims. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York in June announced that after being notified of allegations against McCarrick when he served as a priest in the archdiocese, the matter was “turned over to law enforcement officials, and was then thoroughly investigated by an independent forensic agency.” The results of the investigation were given to the Archdiocesan Review Board, whose members found the allegations to be “credible and substantiated.” Pope Francis stripped McCarrick of his ability to exercise publicly his priestly ministry, and in July accepted McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on June 20 when the allegations against McCarrick first became known, and again on July 28 when McCarrick submitted his resignation to Pope Francis.
Cardinal Cupich of Chicago today released a letter to lay Catholics in the Archdiocese, writing, “I know that many of you are asking: How could this be happening again? Didn’t the U.S. bishops address this crisis sixteen years ago when they met in Dallas? What are they doing now, and why should we trust that this time they will do the right thing?
“These are precisely the questions that ought to be asked. As a former chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, I have asked them myself. And sorrow, disgust, outrage — these are righteous feelings, the stirrings of the conscience of a people scandalized by the terrible reality that too many of the men who promised to protect their children, and strengthen their faith, have been responsible for wounding both. …”
Cardinal Cupich ended his letter by calling for Catholic bishops to summon resolve in the face of the scandal, writing, “We must resolve to face our failures and hold each other accountable. We must resolve to be clear-eyed about what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what remains to be done. We must resolve to live in the light of humility, of repentance, of honesty — the light of Christ. As your bishop, I pledge to continue holding firm to that resolve. And I ask for you to pray for all victims of abuse. …”
Bishop Edward K. Braxton on Aug. 21 released a statement, writing, “These deeply disturbing events not only cause anger, frustration, disappointment, and bewilderment in the minds and hearts of Catholic laity and clergy, they also force us to face an obvious truth. Every ordained minister of the Church, like every baptized lay person, is a redeemed sinner in need of God’s merciful love and forgiveness. There are no perfect Priests and no perfect Bishops, just as there are no perfect Christians.”
He went on to urge Catholics not to lose their faith because of the scandal, writing, “Our faith, as Catholics, is not rooted in our belief in Priests, Bishops, or the Holy Father, himself. Our faith is rooted in our belief in the power of the Holy Spirit revealing the mystery of God in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That faith is lived out by imperfect Christians in the sacramental life of the Church which supports us in our journey from God to God. Nevertheless, with you, I acknowledge that this deep faith can be shaken by the fact that some Priests and Bishops, who are teachers of the faith, have betrayed the trust that you, and especially your children, have placed in them.”
Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet also today issued a statement, writing, “It is alarming to realize the extent to which some of my brother bishops and priests have failed to uphold their obligations to care for the people. This is particularly disheartening for those of the clergy and laity who have faithfully served our Lord and yet find themselves with the burden of this weighty stigma. To all who have been touched by these tragedies, I am truly sorry.”
Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria on Aug. 20 released a statement, writing, “I was truly saddened and deeply disturbed by the recent report from Pennsylvania of the sexual abuse of minors and the failures of some bishops to address this crisis. I know that many of you share my sorrow. I stand with you. We also stand together in offering support to those who have suffered from these horrible offenses. These crimes harm the victims, weaken many people’s faith, and hurt the entire Church. Christ is always the true Head and Shepherd of His flock and His grace alone is able to heal what is broken.”
Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford also today released a statement, writing, “Since 2002, the Church in the United States has undertaken rigorous efforts to address the scandal of sexual abuse, particularly as it relates to minors. Since my consecration as Bishop of Rockford in 2012, I have written and spoken a number of times to detail those efforts. I have also taken the opportunity to apologize to the victims of sexual abuse within the Church.
“I take the occasion of these horrific reports to apologize again. I apologize to any who have been victims of sexual abuse by the clergy. It still bears repeating that one instance of abuse is too many.”
Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield used his column in the diocese’s biweekly magazine to address only the allegations against McCarrick since the publication’s deadline occurred before the release of the grand jury report.
“As a bishop, I certainly share in those feelings of disgust that a fellow successor of the Apostles could engage in such sinful conduct,” Bishop Paprocki writes. “I also find it disgraceful that his proclivities were apparently known by some church authorities, yet they did nothing about it as he continued to ascend through the ranks of the hierarchy.”
He calls for “a lay investigator and an independent panel comprised primarily of lay people to review allegations against bishops and make recommendations to the Apostolic Nuncio, who serves as the pope’s representative in Washington, D.C., who would then forward the findings to the Holy See. This is necessary since bishops are appointed by the pope and are accountable to him, who alone has the power to remove a bishop.”
Bishop Paprocki also urged “a profound spiritual renewal at all levels of the church that takes seriously the church’s teachings on chastity and sexual morality.”