Missouri Bishop Demands End to Clerical Silence on Sex Abuse

by Stephen Wynne  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  August 8, 2018   

Bp. Shawn McKnight: 'This cannot continue'

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Show-Me State prelate is calling for an end to U.S. bishops' silence on clerical sex abuse.

On Monday, Jefferson City Bp. Shawn McKnight posted a strongly worded message to his central Missouri flock urging a change in culture among the American episcopate.

Titled "A pledge to change the culture, rebuild trust," Bp. McKnight's address centered on the need to purge the Church of sexual predators and the culture of cover-up enabling them.

The bishop lamented "the sting of the recent reports of scandal regarding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the silence of so many bishops who knew about him."

"It is almost unbearable," he said, pressing further. "How could a brother bishop disrespect with such callousness the dignity of young boys, seminarians and priests over decades and no one called him on the carpet? It is inexplicable to me. This cannot continue, and I hope with God's grace there will be a change of culture among the clergy."

McKnight vowed to use his position to effect real reform at the episcopal level.

As successors to the Apostles, we bishops are called to be priests, prophets and shepherds who practice in action what we preach in words.

"In November, the U.S. Catholic bishops will gather in Baltimore and will consider ways to embrace spiritual renewal and to rebuild trust," he said. "I pledge to do everything I can to make the process of handling the accusations of bishops more transparent and effective."

The Missouri prelate also urged victims who have not yet reported abuse to make their voices heard.

"I encourage any victim who has not already come forward to do so now so that justice may be served and healing can take place," he said. "We are in this together."

Albany Bp. Edward Scharfenberger

McKnight added he would be remembering those suffering during eucharistic adoration.

"During my hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each morning this month," he pledged, "I will lift up in prayer all victims of abuse by bishops, priests, deacons, religious, lay ministers or volunteers in our Church."

He also asked for prayers for his brother bishops and himself: "As we accompany each other in this dark moment of the Church's history, let us lift up in prayer those who bear responsibility for fixing what is broken, to heal the wounds of the Church."

The bishop also reflected on the responsibility of the shepherds of the Church: "Jesus placed the good of others over Himself. Mission over selfish desires. As successors to the Apostles, we bishops are called to be priests, prophets and shepherds who practice in action what we preach in words."

Appointed bishop of Jefferson City six months ago, McKnight is a veteran of the USCCB's Secretariat for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, where he served from 2010–2015. Included in the Secretariat's duties is aiding the Bishops' Committee on Child and Youth Protection.

Lafayette, Indiana Bp. Timothy Doherty

Bishop McKnight is the third U.S. prelate to demand effective reform.

On July 29, Bp. Edward Scharfenberger of Albany warned that clerical sex abuse and its concealment by the U.S. hierarchy is symptomatic of "a profoundly spiritual crisis."

"A culture of virtue and chastity — in short, personal holiness — rooted in a trusting and committed relationship with Jesus Christ is the path toward healing and wholeness," Scharfenberger declared, "even as we seek to drive the evil behaviors among us from the womb of the Church."

In an Aug. 5 column for his diocesan newspaper, Bp. Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana urged the USCCB to appoint an "outside investigator" to ferret out bishops who looked the other way — for decades — as McCarrick sexually assaulted minors, seminarians and young priests under his authority.

"Who knew what and when, and did not report it?" asked Doherty, chair of the USCCB's Child and Youth Protection Committee.

"What has gone wrong?" Doherty asked. "We deserve to find out."

In contrast, longtime McCarrick associate Cdl. Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. is rejecting the idea of being held accountable to an external board beyond any bishop's control. Instead, Wuerl is suggesting the bishops set up an internal panel to investigate themselves.


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