It’s catch-up time for most of the world’s bishops on the designated issue of the current synod.
Amidst their justifiable frustration and anger, and without for a moment backing off from their demands for a deeper reform of the priesthood and episcopate, U.S. Catholics should understand the Church in the United States (as well as the Church in Australia and other parts of the Anglosphere) is far ahead of most of the rest of the world Church in addressing the sin, crime, and scandal of clerical sexual abuse.
The U.S. Church is far ahead of the Vatican, too. That is one reason why there is a significant perception-gap between the United States and the rest of the world Church about the Vatican abuse summit of 2019.
Vatican officials, and Pope Francis himself, have said that the basic goal of the summit is to make the presidents of bishops’ conferences aware of the nature and extent of the clerical sexual abuse of minors. The Church in the United States turned that page more than fifteen years ago.
In the U.S. context, the issues of the moment are episcopal responsibility and accountability, further reform of seminary recruitment and priestly formation, and the sexual misconduct of either heterosexual or homosexual clergy that does not involve minors or coercion.
American Catholics (and Australian Catholics, and other Catholics) can and should welcome the rest of the world Church getting itself up to speed by confronting the denial and the institutional lethargy that helps facilitate sexual abuse. But it would be imprudent to expect that a great global plan of reform is going to be announced at the end of the Vatican meeting on February 24. [Indeed!]
What that suggests is that, once everyone returns home, the leadership of the U.S. bishops conference should proceed, and quickly, with its own reform plans—hopefully, with the support of the Roman authorities, including Pope Francis.
Even better, and with many of the Church’s leaders in Rome this week, perhaps the reforms that have been undertaken in the United States and that continue to be refined there (and elsewhere) could become better known (and even appreciated) in those parts of the world Church just beginning to face the hard facts of clerical sexual abuse. [Italics added throughout]
On the mark, bingo, bull’s eye. Go XR II.