Abuse watchdogs say bishops’ ‘failings’ hurt their credibility
From Religion News Services 10 May 2013 -
Abuse watchdogs say bishops’ ‘failings’ hurt their credibility. Even as an annual review this week gave Catholic bishops high marks on sex abuse prevention policies, officials with the church’s own oversight agencies expressed serious concerns about “recent high-profile failings” in several dioceses.
The latest scandal has shaken Newark, N.J., where Archbishop John Myers failed to stop a priest from ministering with children in several parishes even though he assured prosecutors that he would enforce a lifetime ban on the priest’s access to children following a molestation case.
Myers initially defended his oversight of the Rev. Michael Fugee, but under increasing pressure he reversed himself; Fugee then resigned from ministry, but ongoing calls for Myers to step down have generated new headlines almost every day.
“I’ll be honest with you, Newark is disheartening,” said Bernie Nojadera, head of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “It is like taking steps backwards.”
Nojadera, along with Al J. Notzon, III, head of a blue-ribbon review board of lay leaders that checks the bishops’ compliance with their policies, on Thursday (May 9) released an annual audit that found another drop in the number of allegations, victims and offenders reported in 2012.
In addition, the review found that almost all of the nearly 200 Catholic dioceses in the U.S. were in compliance with the policies set out in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which the bishops adopted in 2002 at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal.
At the same time, in accompanying letters to Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, both Notzon and Nojadera noted that there has been “much disturbing news in the media” and “recent high-profile failings” that have undermined the bishops’ efforts.
In separate interviews, both Nojadera and Notzon said they were referring to several specific cases:
- the trial and conviction of Monsignor William Lynn in Philadelphia last summer for shielding abusive priests;
- the conviction of Kansas City, Mo., Bishop Robert Finn last September for failing to report a suspected abuser to police;
- the release earlier this year of records from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles that showed the extent to which retired Cardinal Roger Mahony and a top aide covered up for abusersin the priesthood.
Nojadera also pointed to the news in February that Fugee had been appointed to a high-profile administrative job in the Newark archdiocese, and that was before the latest bombshell over Fugee’s unauthorized work with children.
Whole Story: Religion News Services