Sunday, May 26, 2002

My Letter To Cardinal George

When I attended the recent Chicago Forums, I went as an observer. Mainly, I wanted to get a sense of what others were thinking and feeling about this scandal. I also went to be able to report back here on what happened.

Recently, though, I have decided that I needed to add my voice to the mix. So I drafted and sent a letter to Cardinal George in order to address one aspect of what I feel must be done at the Dallas conference. I share with you the body of that letter.

"I have been heartened by your efforts to obtain the laity’s opinion as you prepare for the Bishops conference in Dallas. As you can well imagine, hopes are high that this conference will be a large step forward for the Church’s recovery from the scandal caused by the minority of priests who have sexually abused minors. I write this letter because I worry you and your fellow Bishops may be so focused on addressing the sexual abuse component of the scandal that the conference might end without an examination of another key element: the leadership (or lack thereof) demonstrated by certain Bishops.

The people are angry your Eminence, and a great deal of that anger stems from the perception that many Bishops failed to safeguard their flocks and instead placed priests guilty of abuse back into public ministry and hid news of these priests from the public. Hungry for authentic leadership and real shepherding, the confidence of the faithful has been rattled by news reports that leave one with a sense that many Bishops have behaved like mere corporate executives, and poor ones at that.

In time, the facts will come out and we will have a better understanding of the degree to which this view of the Bishops and their past actions is accurate or mistaken. Nevertheless, the perception must be addressed. If not, I fear many Bishops will return home to dioceses that are even more hostile and wounded than today.

I understand that you and your fellow Bishops may feel it improper to critique or rebuke a fellow Bishop for his possible role in this scandal. Understandably, even Bishops may not know enough facts to make a proper judgment. Accordingly, may I humbly offer a suggestion? The Bishops should not leave the Dallas conference without taking time to reflect on the vocation of the Bishop as the shepherd. The culmination of these reflections should be a public statement affirming the renewed dedication of the Bishops to living out this vocation with fervor.

Such a statement would help reassure people that the Bishops understand and take seriously the idea of being the good shepherd and the need for honest and courageous leadership, carried out with integrity."


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