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Lay leaders, who U.S. bishops ask for guidance, are calling for transparency and accountability, but the bishops aren't listening.
Over the past few days, you have heard some of the disappointing revelations that have come from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) General Assembly. Before the meeting each November, there is another meeting that occurs in September where a group of lay individuals, religious and clerics (including bishops) from multiple dioceses and eparchies in the United States meet to advise the USCCB Administrative Committee and to provide feedback to the bishops in anticipation of the General Assembly.
This group is called the National Advisory Council, or NAC for short. The NAC chair and chair-elect spoke on behalf of the NAC during this November General Assembly and conveyed disappointment of the lack of transparency and accountability concerning the sexual abuse crises, offering some initial and concrete steps that can be taken to begin the healing process.
During the assembly, the current chair of NAC, Fr. David Whitestone, stated that, given the unique circumstances of the sexual crisis, the "members of the NAC abstained from voting on action items, even those which normally have been strongly supported, as a way of expressing our belief that there is no single issue more pressing, as a Church, than the crises that we are now facing — a crisis concerning the reality of sexual abuse and misconduct and the lack of episcopal transparency and accountability."
According to Fr. Whitestone, "The depth of anger, pain and disappointment expressed by the members of the NAC cannot begin to be expressed adequately in words."
The NAC chair-elect, Colonel Anita Raines, firmly stated to the bishops that the NAC body overwhelmingly supports a third-party system to report allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct of bishops and for an establishment of a special commission to review and report such complaints to the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States. Colonel Raines also stated that NAC "unanimously and strongly calls of an audit of U.S. seminaries to investigate possible patterns of abuse of power and predatory homosexual behavior."
Unlike the vote that took place on Nov. 14, 2018 — where the bishops, by a margin of 137 to 83 with three abstentions, voted against asking Rome to share its documentation regarding the McCarrick sexual abuse scandal — the NAC body, according to Colonel Raines, strongly supported an independent investigation concerning all allegations of misconduct by ex-Cardinal McCarrick with the results made public.
Specifically, Colonel Raines stated that the NAC body wanted the following questions answered:
It remains to be seen whether the bishops will heed the concerns of the NAC and take real and actionable steps to provide justice to the victims and hold bishops that engaged in sexual misconduct accountable.