Sunday, June 16, 2002

I'm Back

Well, I am back from vacation and will be posting new reflections on CFL shortly. I had a chance to catch EWTN's wrap-up special on the Dallas conference. (Probably the best way to watch it, anyway.) I will keep my comments brief as I didn't see most of the proceedings and haven't read the documents (and don't intend to).

From what I saw, the conference was a waste and an effort to placate people with zippy headlines ("zero tolerance") versus a serious effort to address the problem. I haven't watched these conferences in the past, but I was shocked by how much it seemed like a meeting of legislators than spiritual leaders. Part of the problem. Cardinal George had it right when he said little is new about this charter other than the collective resolve behind it (which is still to be demonstrated). Personally, what is new about the charter frightens me. (For those who have read the charter and know that I am missing some nuance, forgive me.) We've had plenty of experience with zero tolerance-type efforts in the secular law (3-strikes, minimum sentencing guidelines) and it has had little success. In my mind, it is the abdication of responsibility to judge each case fairly and justly. "The charter has settled the issue, I can point to it. It's responsible." I also find the deference to civil law troubling. Civil law can be against divine and natural law. If the civil authorities require all cases of abuse to be reported, even those revealed under seal of confession, will the bishops just submit to it? I don't have a problem with a bishop choosing to cooperate with civil authorities, but it seems to me that it is dangerous to establish it as a policy.

All in all, it was pretty much what I expected. Of course, my expectations were pretty low. Still, I am disappointed that the bishops didn't spend more of their time discussing what bishops should be doing as shepherds. Why did the conference have to be a legislative activity? I read on The Corner Rod Dreher's comments on the bishops going to report every allegation to the civil authorities because they have lost credibility to do anything else. I don't know about this. It strikes me as somewhat defeatist. Yes, many bishops have squandered their moral authority. But it is only going to be reclaimed by behaving like bishops. From some of the comments of the bishops I am struck by the notion that some of them don't intend to disclose every allegation to the civil authorities because that is the right thing to do (and that's open to some debate), but because they can't stand the heat that would be on them during the time it will take to truly recover their persuasive authority by embracing their responsibility fully.

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