BALTIMORE (ChurchMilitant.com) - The head of the U.S. bishops' conference is pledging to forge ahead as best he can with efforts to tackle the clerical sex abuse crisis after the Vatican intervened earlier today to block a vote on the issue.
At the opening of the U.S. bishops' 2018 fall assembly in Baltimore this morning, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) President Cdl. Daniel DiNardo stunned his audience with the announcement that the Holy See blocked a vote on two proposals regarding standards of episcopal conduct and the creation of a special commission to govern violations of conduct standards.
The vote, Cdl. DiNardo said, will be delayed until after a special Vatican meeting on the sexual abuse of minors (currently, abuse of seminarians is not on the agenda), scheduled for February 21–24, 2019.
Following up on the news at an afternoon press conference, DiNardo told reporters: "We have accepted with disappointment this particular event that took place this morning," but insisted the order is merely "a bump in the road," adding: "We have not lessened in any of our resolve for actions."
"We are going to work intensely on these items of action we can't vote on totally," he continued, vowing to "clarify them, get them even more intensely, let's say, 'canonically well.'"
"We'll tell our people we're just going to keep pushing and moving until we get to a point where it becomes action," he added.
When a reporter asked how Catholics can trust their bishops again, DiNardo responded by suggesting that great strides have been made already to conquer the predator priest phenomenon.
"They watch us in action in bearing fruit. ... You also do look to what's happened to this issue over the past 17 or 18 years," said the cardinal.
"Remember, the Dallas Charter is not completed yet because the bishops weren't always involved in the Dallas Charter," he added.
In fact, as the authors of the Dallas Charter, the U.S. bishops have been involved in its creation — and specific design — from the very beginning. The document's chief architect was ex-Cdl. Theodore McCarrick, whose outing as a serial sexual predator in June has rocked the Church to its core. Together with allies among his brother bishops, McCarrick deliberately diluted the Dallas Charter, apparently tailoring the document to exempt bishops in order to protect himself and others like him after decades of abusing seminarians.
According to Cdl. DiNardo, today's order came directly from the Congregation for Bishops, whose prefect, Cdl. Marc Ouellet, in an open letter last month, slammed whistleblower Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò for his testimony that just months into his pontificate, Pope Francis lifted penalties from McCarrick, despite knowing the cardinal's history of sexual abuse.
Today's bombshell announcement comes against a backdrop of calls by fed-up laity for the U.S. bishops to resign en masse. As the bishops assembled this morning, outside their hotel, Catholic laity gathered to demand justice.
Speaking to a growing media scrum outside the bishops' hotel, representatives of Bishop Accountability, End Clergy Abuse and victims themselves blasted the bishops for refusing to take needed steps to stamp out clerical sex abuse and cover-up, singling out certain prelates for particular scorn.
To them, the Vatican's order to stand down is just more of the same.