WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops' conference issued Thursday a statement responding to a recent book that the conference says perpetuates a myth that it is resistant to Pope Francis.
Austen Ivereigh's Wounded Shepherd was published Nov. 5 by Henry Holt and Co.
The book “perpetuates an unfortunate and inaccurate myth that the Holy Father finds resistance among the leadership and staff of the U.S. bishops’ conference,” James Rogers, chief communications officer for the conference, said Nov. 7.
Ivereigh claims that Msgr. Brian Bransfield, general secretary of the conference, and Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, dean of canon law at The Catholic University of America and a consultant to the conference, drafted proposals for a bishops' code of conduct and lay commissions in the wake of the McCarrick scandal that were subsequently rejected by Rome. Ivereigh said the proposals were meant to bypass Roman input.
Rogers called the claim disparaging of Msgrs. Bransfield and Jenkins and said Ivereigh's account “is false and misleading.”
According to the conference, its president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, began in August 2018 to consult bishops on measures that would strengthen the Dallas Charter. Draft proposals were written by the next month “under the direction of the Executive Committee” and with the help of the Committees on Clergy, Consecrated Life, Canonical Affairs and Child Protection, as well as the doctrinal secretariat and the general counsel's office.
“It was intended that the proposals stop short of where the authority of the Holy See began,” Rogers wrote.
“For example, like the [Dallas] Charter before it, the lay commission was based on the voluntary participation of bishops, compiling substantial reports of abuse to be delivered directly to the apostolic nuncio in the United States with due regard to civilly mandated reporting laws.”
Rogers added that “while informal consultations with the Holy See took place in October, it was envisioned that the Holy See would have an opportunity to review and offer adjustments only on those drafts benefiting from the input of the full body of U.S. bishops, recognizing that substantial amendments could yet take place.”
The proposals were to have been voted on at the U.S. bishops' 2018 autumn general assembly, but upon the indication of Rome, Cardinal DiNardo delayed that vote.
The cardinal's decision “is a clear sign of his and his brother bishops’ collaboration with and obedience to the Holy Father,” Rogers wrote.
“When Pope Francis announced the new universal Church law establishing a worldwide program of protection, Cardinal DiNardo strongly supported the measures and moved quickly to ensure the conference’s proposals would be both ready for votes in June of this year and would be complementary to the Holy Father’s own program. The June agenda moved forward without the objection of the Holy See.”
According to the conference, “Because of the decisive actions of Pope Francis and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Church is a safer place for children and adults in vulnerable situations.”