Bishops delay votes on combating church sex abuse crisis; Cardinal Cupich sees ‘a grave urgency’

Bishops delay votes on combating church sex abuse crisis; Cardinal Cupich sees ‘a grave urgency’
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, prepares to lead the organization's annual fall meeting Monday in Baltimore. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

BALTIMORE — At the Vatican’s insistence, U.S. Catholic bishops abruptly postponed plans Monday to vote on proposed new steps to address the clergy sex abuse crisis roiling the church.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he was told on the eve of the bishop’s national meeting to delay action until after a Vatican-convened global meeting on sex abuse in February.

“We are not ourselves happy about this,” DiNardo said in an unusual public display of frustration at a Vatican pronouncement.

“We are working very hard to move to action — and we’ll do it,” he said. “I think people in the church have a right to be skeptical. I think they also have a right to be hopeful.”

The bishops are meeting through Wednesday in Baltimore and had been expected to consider several steps to combat abuse, including a new code of conduct for themselves and the creation of a special commission, including lay experts, to review complaints against the bishops. Omaha Archbishop George Lucas is attending the conference.

The bishops plan to proceed with discussing these proposals, which were drafted in September by the bishops’ Administrative Committee. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago suggested that the bishops could hold a nonbinding vote on the proposals while in Baltimore and then convene a special assembly for a formal vote after considering the results of the global meeting in February.

“I realize that another meeting will create logistical challenges for the conference staff and the bishops’ schedules, but there is a grave urgency to this matter and we cannot delay,” said Cupich, an Omaha native.

DiNardo, in his address opening the bishops’ assembly, told survivors of clergy abuse he was “deeply sorry.”

“Some would say this is entirely a crisis of the past. It is not,” DiNardo said. “We must never victimize survivors over again by demanding they heal on our timeline.”

Liz McCloskey, part of a coalition of concerned Catholics called the 5 Theses movement, said the stakes couldn’t be higher. “Delaying taking any action in response to the sex abuse scandal is not only a public relations nightmare but a moral failing,” she said.

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