SAN DIEGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - Some San Diego Catholics are complaining that the diocese had them removed from a question and answer session on the Catholic clerical sex abuse scandal.
Bishop Robert McElroy of the San Diego diocese announced in August that there would be a series of eight "listening sessions" throughout October and into early November. One of the things that happen at these events is the bishop fields questions from the laity about the clerical sex abuse crisis.
The second listening session, on Wednesday, was a packed house. Some lay Catholics who tried to attend the event were asked to leave, and not just for lack of space. Two men told FOX 5 San Diego that they were removed from Wednesday's event.
"I am grateful that the bishop is having these sessions," one of them told FOX 5, "and that we have the opportunity to engage with him in discussion, but I do feel like there were a lot of questions that were left unanswered."
Kevin Eckery, a spokesman for the San Diego diocese, defended the practice of removing certain participants, saying, "They had attended the last one as well and they were mildly disruptive. So that we could actually have a quality discussion, they were asked to leave."
Church Militant received several tips from Catholics in San Diego claiming that the people removed from the event Wednesday were young, devout Catholics who asked challenging questions on Monday about the problem of homosexuality in the clerical ranks.
Faithful Catholics in San Diego recently launched a petition demanding that Bp. McElroy answer a series of questions about homosexual predation among priests in relation to the sex abuse scandal. One of the questions they want answered is, "Why haven't you publicly called for the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl?"
Another of the questions reads, "Have any of our seminarians experienced sexual advances from other seminarians or seminary formators? If so, what did you do about it?"
The group of Catholic laity behind the petition calls itself Concerned Catholics of San Diego. The group's website states, "As lay Catholics, we are very concerned about recent revelations of allegations of priestly and episcopal sexual misconduct as well as episcopal and even papal cover up of misdeeds."
"Clearly, the Church is in a moral crisis," Concerned Catholics of San Diego opines, "and it is safe to say that the hierarchy did not learn all of the valuable lessons that were available to it in 2002 when the bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
Church Militant has obtained a series of audio recordings from Monday night's event — Bp. McElroy's first listening session. In one recording, a lady can be heard complaining to the bishop, "Do we have a good Courage program in this diocese? I never hear a positive word about something that would be helpful to those that are struggling with same-sex attraction, who have a great desire to live a chaste life."
She got some applause as she continued, "I think our diocese needs to know that you support something of this nature."
Courage is a Catholic apostolate that "offers support for those who experience same-sex attractions" and still want to live a chaste, Catholic life.
Bishop McElroy replied by talking about the priests in the San Diego diocese who have been chaplains for Courage locally. Though speaking warmly about those priests, he declined to give a more direct affirmation of the Courage apostolate, pointing to the organization's more "private" and small, group-based atmosphere.
A few minutes later, a different woman received loud applause and cheering when she asked snarkily, "In other Christian religions there are married priests and there are women priests and deacons. Why not in the Catholic Church?"
McElroy responded by talking about married priests in the Eastern rites. He said of allowing married priests, "There's no theological reason why it could not be done. It's been done in the past. It's not a theological question."
After a little shouting from members of the audience, he later corrected his word choice, "That's not doctrine, that's what I mean."
However, the bishop dodged the question when it came to female ordination.
Another lady in attendance asked the bishop about Church leadership's response to the sex abuse scandal, "What guarantees do we have, moving forward, that it is not going to be a 'business as usual' approach?"
He talked about the many "substantial changes" that have taken place since the first abuse scandal broke in the United States in 2002. Bishop McElroy went on to cite how few "new cases" of priest sex abuse there have been, as evidence that lay review boards and other policies have been effective.
Some people were able to ask Bp. McElroy questions vocally. But all in attendance left behind hand-written notes that the bishop could read later.