I started decrying child abuse by priests in 1985 and lost most of my friends in the priesthood for, in effect, breaking the code of silence. So the Catholic clergy may deserve the bad rap because of its own ineptitude. However, despite what you may have heard or read, the following did not happen at the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week:
There has been a lack of clarity in many news stories about the difference between ejecting a man from the priesthood, which requires due process by the church, and banning him from priestly ministry, which does not.
First of all, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who headed the Vatican commission that reviewed the Dallas documents, seems to have thought that the proposals were adequate enough to be tested for two years. Unfortunately, this recommendation was overruled by others in Rome who had no sense of how angry American Catholics were.
Then the American bishops made the terrible mistake of keeping the Rome document secret for four days last month while the media distorted it beyond recognition.
Some major media, apparently having made a decision not to have Catholics cover the meeting (an exercise in anti-Catholicism, incidentally), sent journalists to Washington who didn't have a clue about the issues. Hence contradictory reports flooded the country all last week. What was in fact a minor adjustment to the Dallas protocols--mostly to guarantee due process for priests--became instead a stunning defeat. And the American Catholic laity, already furious at their leadership, became even more angry.
The bishops managed to steal defeat out of the jaws of victory.
The distortion was abetted by a few of the supposed victims' leaders who, reveling in their power and 15 minutes of fame, don't want any due process for the accused. They probably would not be satisfied if the Vatican had mandated castration for every priest in the nation.
Here is the problem: The Vatican doesn't know what is going on in the U.S. The American bishops do, but they can't or won't explain it properly. So that leaves others to explain, and their motives are not to explain but to defame.