With the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2018 fall general meeting now in the rearview mirror, and the season of Advent upon us, it may be more productive to look forward in hope rather than backward in consternation, despite the temptation.
But to give in just a bit to temptation: For those hoping for and expecting concrete action on clergy sexual abuse following a horrendous summer of allegations and revelations, there was great disappointment and frustration, as was covered by this Editorial Board last week. But it is important to note that despite the lack of action, the bishops thoughtfully, passionately and at great length engaged in a conversation that urgently needed to happen and will continue to play out over the next couple of months. (The bishops will meet again at the beginning of January for a weeklong retreat on the abuse crisis.)
For now, we can only anticipate the worldwide meeting of bishops’ conference presidents in February, praying for swift resolutions that will ensure accountability for bishops found to be credibly accused of wrongdoing and greater protection for our young people. Should the opportunity pass by with further inaction, the righteous anger of the laity in this country likely will come to a head. So we look forward in hope to February.
We also look forward in hope to the conclusion of the Vatican’s investigation into disgraced — but not yet laicized — Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who is alleged to have sexually abused at least one minor and to have made sexual advances toward seminarians. There was much discussion at the bishops’ assembly about Archbishop McCarrick, but, again, no concrete action taken. A draft of a communique to Pope Francis encouraging a swift investigation and action against McCarrick ultimately was voted down, as many viewed it as encouraging Pope Francis to do what he had already indicated he was doing. While the bishops didn’t reach a conclusion, this Editorial Board would like to take the opportunity to affirm with ardor and urgency the necessity of what the Holy See has said it will do: complete and make known all the findings of its investigation into the case of Archbishop McCarrick. And we look forward to finding out the conclusions, as tough as it may be to read them, in the confidence that the whole truth is what is needed to help bring the Church to healing.
We also look forward in hope to a time when the Catholic Church is not synonymous with clergy sexual abuse, and when all who have been victimized by a representative of the Church may find healing and reconciliation. Until then, we continue to advocate for reforms that will keep children and all those in positions of vulnerability from harm.
And finally, we look forward to the coming of the Lord at Christmas. His Nativity reminds us that, no matter how challenging the times may be, the Lord in his mercy and love has chosen to be with us in the midst of our trials. As we enter into this Advent season of waiting and preparation, now is the time to set aside our worries and frustration and anxiety about and with the Church — even if just for a time. Instead, let us focus our hearts and our families on preparing to welcome the Christ Child — the one who brings peace to the world and who can also bring much-needed peace to our Church.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young