To read Bill Donohue’s latest defense of the virtue of the Catholic powers-that-be–published as a full-page ad in yesterday’s New York Times–is to be struck by the degree to which he and his episcopal buddies refuse even to discuss the issue that lies at the core of the sex abuse scandal over the past decade. From the intemperate remarks of New Hampshire legislators about Bishop John McCormack’s past to the prosecution of Cardinal Justin Rigali’s regime in Philadelphia to the implosion of the Church’s moral authority in Ireland, it has been the refusal of the Church to hold bishops accountable for anything other than their own private sins that continues to outrage Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Let us stipulate, for the sake of argument, that the dioceses have accurately reported the numbers of abuse cases contained in the latest report of the USCCB’s Review Board: 426 credible cases, with only seven having occurred in 2010. Let us further stipulate that the policies adopted by the bishops have succeeded in reducing the amount of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. Unless and until the accountability of bishops is addressed, it won’t matter.

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