The American Bishops in Disarray over Anti-Abuse Norms

November 27, 2018
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo

On November 12, 2018, the Holy See stepped in at the last minute, ordering the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to postpone its vote on the new measures against the abuse of minors, and sowing confusion among the American prelates.

Cardinal DiNardo, president of the Bishops’ Conference admitted that he is “disappointed with Rome’s decision”. He was informed of it by a letter from Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, sent to the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

The next day, on November 13, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States known for triggering the controversy on how the Vatican has handled the abuse of minors in America – sent a letter to the American bishops begging them not to “be afraid of standing up and doing the right thing for the victims, for the faithful and for [their] own salvation.”

According to Vatican Insider, three documents were sent to Rome by the American bishops “only a few days earlier”. Besides the lack of time to examine them before approval, certain “perplexities regarding two of the three texts” are what caused the Holy See to intervene. Which would justify Rome’s request to postpone the vote. 

One of the problems with the project presented to the Vatican is that an independent civil commission charged with judging cases of abuse would have legal jurisdiction over the bishops themselves, which goes against Church law. A serious reason for the Holy See to step in. 

During the Apostolic Nuncio’s speech at the beginning of the assembly of the American Bishops’ Conference, the representative of the pope warned the bishops, quoting Georges Bernanos in Brother Martin: “He who claims to reform the Church by these means, by the very means through which one reforms a temporal society, not only fails in his undertaking, but infallibly ends by finding himself outside the Church.”