BALTIMORE (ChurchMilitant.com) - Early Monday, as U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) President Cdl. Daniel DiNardo announced the Vatican had blocked a vote on new episcopal conduct standards, outside the bishops' hotel, clerical sex abuse victims and their supporters gathered to demand the collective resignation of the American episcopate.
Amid a swelling swarm of reporters, representatives of advocacy groups BishopAccountability.org, Ending Clergy Abuse and others joined victims in blasting U.S. bishops for refusing to take the steps needed to eradicate clerical sex abuse and cover-up in a bid to hold fast to their privilege and power.
Peter Isley, a founding member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), called for a federal probe into the cover-up. Isley pointed out that inside the hotel behind him, "There are at least 130 members of the senior management of this national organization that has responsibility and care for millions of children." Of those, he said, "One-third of them have been known to have covered up child sex crimes."
"Let me say that again — and we hope, of course, that the Department of Justice is listening: One-third of the senior management of this organization has covered up child sex crimes," he reiterated.
"What do you need to do to get a federal probe?" he asked. "It seems like racketeering to most of us. If you've got a third of your senior management that have covered up child sex crimes, a third of them coordinating it together, what is that? That is a conspiracy."
"The evidence there," Isley declared, "and it needs to be investigated ... it's time. We need to see bishops go to jail for this. If you've covered it up, you need to start being held accountable."
Isley concluded with a stark assessment of the bishops' character:
This organization has targeted, for decades, a particular class of children. There are 7,000 clergy, over the decades, that ... have sexually assaulted children in the United States. They have targeted a particular group of children — Catholic children. I was a Catholic child. Every victim is a Catholic child. Here's our Catholic leaders; they covered up for those crimes. ... So what they are telling Catholics ... is basically, "We care more about our organization and our princely titles and positions than we care about children — than we care about Catholics."
Other prelates were singled out for rebuke.
"I'm a redacted name from pages 66 and 67 of the Altoona-Johnstown grand jury report," said Pennsylvanian Shaun Dougherty.
"I'm here to call on my bishop from the Altoona-Johnstown diocese, Bp. Mark Bartchak ... come out here and address the press and answer our questions," he demanded. "Explain to us why his name was mentioned as Msgr. Bartchak from Erie diocese in Pennsylvania. Why is he named in this report?"
"I'm a victim of childhood sexual abuse from Pennsylvania," Dougherty declared. "To me, personally — I can't speak for all victims — the cover-up is the far worse crime. ... That turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to a crying child from a priest or a bishop — that's unconscionable. They all have a price to pay."
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, spotlighted multiple prelates. "Bishop Robert McElroy is here this week from San Diego," she noted. "When he became bishop of San Diego, he said anyone who's involved in the abuse of a minor, even one case, is not allowed in ministry. Well this apparently didn't extend to abusers of adults."
Doyle outlined a recent case:
McElroy kept Fr. Jacob Bertrand in ministry dspite a complaint to the diocese by a woman that Bertrand had had sexual intercourse with her a few years earlier when she was 24 during a private Mass in her home. Bertrand substantially admitted the misconduct to the diocese, yet McElroy let him run a parish, and in 2016, the priest gave a lecture to college students on the Theology of the Body. When the victim discovered this, she filed a criminal compliant; the priest was found guilty, but McElroy did not remove him until he learned he was being prosecuted in August of 2016.
Doyle also turned the spotlight on her own archdiocese of Boston.
"My own bishop, Cdl. Seán O'Malley, is widely regarded as the most enlightened man on the sex abuse crisis," she said, "[but] when he released his list of accused clergy in August of 2011, he chose to withhold the names of 91 archdiocesan priests."
"This is not us saying this," Doyle clarified, "He admitted that in a cover letter that is still on his website. We know who some of those priests are, and the stories of their victims who told the diocese are absolutely agonizing."
"It is a threat to public safety and it is so cruel to the victims of those priests for Cdl. O'Malley to withhold those names, and this is the man who talks about transparency," she added.
Doyle also spoke to New York Cdl. Timothy Dolan's attempts to suppress reform.
"He has fought for years, spent millions of dollars, to sabotage the efforts of survivors to pass reform of statute of limitations in New York," she noted. "He is protecting his institution at the expense of children and at the expense of survivors."
"That is why we make this call for the bishops to submit their resignations en masse today," Doyle concluded. "This group of men is not fit to answer the current moment's demand for transparency and accountability."