Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Many Urge More Accountability By Church After Abuse Revelations

By Mark Pattison, CNS

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The sexual-abuse allegations surrounding now-former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick have prompted some church figures to call for a more thorough reckoning of the U.S. church's clerical sexual-abuse policies.

            "We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to 'get away with' such evil and destructive behaviors," said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., in a July 27 letter to clergy in his diocese. "But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.

            "In negative terms, and as clearly and directly as I can repeat our church teaching, it is a grave sin to be 'sexually active' outside of a real marriage covenant. A cardinal is not excused from what a layperson or another member of the clergy is not," Bishop Scharfenberger said.

            "A member of the clergy who pledges to live a celibate life must remain as chaste in his relationship with all whom he serves as spouses within a marriage. This is what our faith teaches and what we are held to in practice. There is no 'third way,'" he added.

            "As a father, I am appalled and angry. As a Catholic, I feel ashamed and betrayed," said a statement from John Carr, director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University, who had worked closely with Archbishop McCarrick on various policy initiatives when Carr worked at USCCB headquarters in Washington.

            "As a friend of former Cardinal McCarrick, I am devastated, especially for the victims and their families," Carr added. "I pray that these horrific developments can help end this evil of clerical sex abuse and dismantle the culture that permitted it within our family of faith."

            Msgr. Owen Campion, former editor of the national newspaper Our Sunday Visitor and now chaplain of OSV Newsweekly, said he felt dismay, revulsion, heartsickness, anger and – for once – weariness upon learning of the accusations lodged against Archbishop McCarrick.

            "I am weary of trying to make excuses, of trying to find something to say," Msgr. Campion wrote on July 18. 

            "I am tired of stepping away from restrooms in restaurants until a youth has emerged. I am tired of watching my every move and calculating my every word if a young person is present. I am tired of calling my diocese when I have been invited to preach in another location, asking for a letter stating that I have never been in trouble."

            He added that he is tired of making the point that "sexual abuse is a vast problem in our culture," because he is "assailed for concocting excuses." "But I make it again," he said.

             In Baltimore, Archbishop William E. Lori said allegations against Archbishop McCarrick "have shaken our church to its core.

            "That we find ourselves in this place again is tragic and heart wrenching – for the victims; for their families and friends; for all Catholics; and for our neighbors whom we  are called to serve in truth and love," he said in a July 30 statement.

            He said he strongly supports Pope Francis' response to Archbishop McCarrick's case and other recent cases, including accepting the resignation of several Chilean bishops, and praised the pope's "determination to hold accountable all those who have sexually abused others or failed to report allegations of sexual abuse, regardless of  their position or rank in the church."

            “I will contribute actively to those discussions and will fully  implement their results in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to best protect  those in our local Catholic community and all those we serve," he said, pledging his "continued diligent oversight of the measures currently in place" and renewing his commitment "to do all I can to build a culture of accountability and transparency."