Several U.S. bishops have issued statements in reaction to the scandal surrounding Archbishop (formerly Cardinal) Theodore McCarrick. This overview will be periodically updated, with the most recent excerpts at the top of the list.
Bishop Robert Barron (Auxiliary Bishop in Los Angeles) — Aug. 9 Column
“When I was going through school, the devil was presented to us as a myth, a literary device, a symbolic manner of signaling the presence of evil in the world. I will admit to internalizing this view and largely losing my sense of the devil as a real spiritual person. What shook my agnosticism in regard to the evil one was the clerical sex abuse scandal of the nineties and the early aughts. I say this because that awful crisis just seemed too thought-through, too well-coordinated, to be simply the result of chance or wicked human choice. The devil is characterized as “the enemy of the human race” and particularly the enemy of the Church. I challenge anyone to come up with a more devastatingly effective strategy for attacking the mystical body of Christ than the abuse of children and young people by priests. This sin had countless direct victims of course, but it also crippled the Church financially, undercut vocations, caused people to lose confidence in Christianity, dramatically compromised attempts at evangelization, etc., etc. It was a diabolical masterpiece.”
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory (Atlanta) — Aug. 9 Statement
“We are weary of this cloud of shame that continues to shroud Church leadership and compromise our mission. I am personally disheartened because in 2002 I stood before the body of bishops and the people of God as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and made assurances in my own name and that of the Church in the United States that this crisis of faith and leadership was over and would not be repeated. I sincerely believed that the unprecedented steps we took at that time would help to heal this wound in the Body of Christ. And so they have, though obviously not completely or even sufficiently. ...
“I am hurt because my respect and fraternal esteem for Theodore McCarrick were clearly misplaced. I never personally worked with him in any pastoral context, having only encountered him as a fellow member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, but his public devotion to the Church’s social justice agenda was highly regarded. I never knew or suspected the hidden side of a man whose admired public persona concealed that of a violator of foundational Christian morality and of young people who trusted him. Like any individual who discovers far too late that a friend has a history of moral misconduct, I now stand dumbfounded that I was so unaware and naïve. I know that many other bishops feel the same. ...
“While the current leadership of the USCCB considers next steps, I strongly encourage that they engage the laity in reviewing and recommending courses of action that will assure the faithful that we are serious in curing this blight from our Church and from episcopal governance once and for all.”
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight (Jefferson City) — Aug. 9 Statement
“It is almost unbearable. How could a brother bishop disrespect with such callousness the dignity of young boys, seminarians and priests over decades and no one called him on the carpet?
“It is inexplicable to me. This cannot continue, and I hope with God’s grace there will be a change of culture among the clergy.
“...Jesus placed the good of others over Himself. Mission over selfish desires.
“As successors to the Apostles, we bishops are called to be priests, prophets and shepherds who practice in action what we preach in words.
“May God help us to be faithful to Jesus in fulfilling our obligations as bishops.
“During my hour of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each morning this month, I will lift up in prayer all victims of abuse by bishops, priests, deacons, religious, lay ministers or volunteers in our Church.”
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (Albany) — Aug. 6 Statement
“While I am heartened by my brother bishops proposing ways for our Church to take action in light of recent revelations – and I agree that a national panel should be commissioned, duly approved by the Holy See – I think we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer. To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised.
“It is time for us, I believe, to call forth the talents and charisms of our lay faithful, by virtue of their baptismal priesthood. Our lay people are not only willing to take on this much-needed role, but they are eager to help us make lasting reforms that will restore a level of trust that has been shattered yet again. In speaking with them, we all hear their passion for our universal Church, their devotion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and their hunger for the truth. They are essential to the solution we seek.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Washington) — Aug. 3 Statement
“What we are now facing, in the media and from many of our people, is the question: ‘Has anything changed?’
“The answer, I believe, is, ‘Yes.’ We are encouraged by our Holy Father’s determination to hold accountable those who violate the obligations of their ordination, who go so far as to abuse the young and vulnerable among us, or to use their power and influence in a harmful way.
“In his strong and decisive response to the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, Pope Francis is leading the way in calling bishops to greater accountability. The Pope has demonstrated a keen awareness of the feelings of betrayal, the disappointment, the not-unreasonable anger felt by so many of our faithful people as these accusations come to light.
“Just as our Holy Father has provided us with an example of how to begin to heal these deep wounds, we, the bishops of our country, are presented with an opportunity to reflect on what has come to light, to minister to the pain and to respond as best we can to questions that have been raised by this scandal, while moving forward to address in practical ways the very real and legitimate concerns for accountability.
“I think everyone recognizes that words, good intentions, and new policies, while important, are not enough. We must not only denounce abuse and take steps to stop the abusers. We must remove even the appearance of cover-ups as we investigate and address allegations.”
Bishop Richard F. Stika (Knoxville) — Aug. 3 Statement
“Like many of you, I have struggled in recent weeks with my personal reaction to reports that Archbishop Theodore McCarrick sexually abused individuals during his years as a priest and bishop. I also recognize the anger and doubt Catholics around the world feel due to the nature of this case.
“I want to offer my personal apology for what has happened. While reports and admissions of decades-old sins and crimes have shaken us in recent years, I am confident in the process the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has in place with the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. ...
“I believe the charter works, but I also believe it is time for further review and action to strengthen it. I support Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the USCCB, and his call to convene the executive committee to begin this process of addressing sexual abuse and abuse of power by bishops and major superiors. This will be a priority at the convening of the USCCB General Assembly in November, which I will attend.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo (Houston/USCCB) — Aug. 1 Statement
“First, I encourage my brother bishops as they stand ready in our local dioceses to respond with compassion and justice to anyone who has been sexually abused or harassed by anyone in the Church. We should do whatever we can to accompany them.
“Second, I would urge anyone who has experienced sexual assault or harassment by anyone in the Church to come forward. Where the incident may rise to the level of a crime, please also contact local law enforcement.
“Third, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick's conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the Conference will advocate with those who do have the authority. One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.
“Finally, we bishops recognize that a spiritual conversion is needed as we seek to restore the right relationship among us and with the Lord. Our Church is suffering from a crisis of sexual morality. The way forward must involve learning from past sins.”
Bishop David J. Walkowiak (Grand Rapids) — July 30 Statement
“Beset by a tragic history of such cases, the Church must seek forgiveness and repentance and reach out in care to victims of such abuse. This history also demands of us the need to continually strengthen our resolve to take concrete measures in ensuring a safe environment for our children and youth in parishes, schools, and society.
“Cardinals and bishops, like priests and deacons, must be held accountable for any actions that cause harm to the most vulnerable in our communities. I encourage all individuals to report such instances so that the Church may take the steps needed toward healing.”
Archbishop Paul S. Coakley (Oklahoma City) — July 30 Statement (PDF)
“How could these allegations have remained under the radar for so long? ... Part of the problem is a gap in the Charter itself. The Charter does not provide clear means for reporting and responding to allegations of abuse committed by bishops. This gap has contributed to the erosion of trust and confidence in episcopal leadership among priests, deacons and the lay faithful. Repairing this gap by creating consistent standards and procedures for all, including bishops, will go a long way toward restoring that trust.
“In a July 24 letter to Cardinal DiNardo ... I highlighted this concern and my hope that the upcoming Administrative Committe meeting in September would address this crisis of trust and these deficiencies in a clear and robust manner.”
Michael F. Burbidge (Arlington) — July 30 Statement
“While the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2002) altered the way the Church in the U.S. deals with allegations against priests, much more is needed. For 16 years, dioceses around the country have implemented unprecedented protocols to encourage reporting of allegations and suspicions of sexual abuse by priests and deacons, as well as to investigate such accusations thoroughly, independently and transparently. Clearly, these procedures and policies need to be reflected in the conduct of bishops as well and how we relate to one another. We all must be held accountable for our actions—bishops are no exception.”
Cardinal Donald Wuerl (Washington) — July 30 Interview
“The news regarding Archbishop McCarrick was a great shock to our Church in Washington. There is understandable anger, both on a personal level due to the charges, but also more broadly at the Church. Our faithful have lived through such scandals before, and they are demanding accountability. I believe the actions taken by Pope Francis clearly reflect an understanding that we must move swiftly to address claims of any form of abuse or serious breach of trust by ministers of the Church, no matter who they may be or what position they may hold. Acknowledging such grave breaches of trust and seeking forgiveness open the doors for healing.”
Archbishop William E. Lori (Baltimore) — July 30 Statement
“I strongly support the Holy Father’s response in these cases and his determination to hold accountable all those who have sexually abused others or failed to report allegations of sexual abuse, regardless of their position or rank in the Church. I applaud his resolve in exercising the right and responsibility of the Holy See to discipline bishops and to hold them to high standards in fulfilling their office.
“Building on the Holy Father’s efforts to strengthen the accountability of bishops, some bishops in the United States are discussing proposals to do the same. These proposals include measures that can be implemented in each diocese to ensure that victims can easily report allegations of abuse by any member of the Church, including bishops, and can confidently expect that those allegations will get a full and fair hearing. I will contribute actively to those discussions and will fully implement their results in the Archdiocese of Baltimore to best protect those in our local Catholic community and all those we serve.”
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger (Albany) — July 29 Statement
“Abuse of authority – in this case, with strong sexual overtones – with vulnerable persons is hardly less reprehensible than the sexual abuse of minors, which the USCCB attempted to address in 2002. Unfortunately, at that time – something I never understood – the Charter did not go far enough so as to hold cardinals, archbishops and bishops equally, if not more, accountable than priests and deacons. ...
“Let me be clear, however, in stating my firm conviction that this is, at heart, much more than a crisis of policies and procedures. We can – and I am confident that we will – strengthen the rules and regulations and sanctions against any trying to fly under the radar or to “get away with” such evil and destructive behaviors. But, at its heart, this is much more than a challenge of law enforcement; it is a profoundly spiritual crisis.”
Bishop Michael F. Olson (Fort Worth) — July 28 Statement (PDF)
“Although he has now resigned from the College of Cardinals and has been suspended a divinis with direction to live a life of prayer and penance in seclusion, the alleged crimes of the former Cardinal have caused such further damage to the integrity of the hierarchy and mission of the Church that his prompt reduction canonically to the laity should be strongly deliberated, as has been the case for many other priests, for reconciliation and healing in the light of the justice and merciful redemption as won by Christ and promised to all who are alienated by the corruption of sin. Justice also requires that all of those in Church leadership who knew of the former Cardinal’s alleged crimes and sexual misconduct and did nothing be held accountable for their refusal to act thereby enabling others to be hurt.”
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo (Houston/USCCB) — July 28 Statement
“I thank the Holy Father for his leadership in taking this important step. It reflects the priority the Holy Father places on the need for protection and care for all our people and the way failures in this area affect the life of the Church in the United States.”