Cardinal DiNardo's Update on the Protection of Minors
Dear Brother Bishops,
I write to you at the midpoint of the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church. These have been days of fraternity, repentance, and, most of all, hope in the Risen Lord. We have reflected on our responsibility in the Gospel and our accountability to Christ and to one another. Tomorrow, we will address leading the flock with transparency.
The Holy Father has called us to “listen to the cry of the little ones who ask for justice.” We carry in our hearts the pain and rightful expectations of survivors. The Pope offered clear direction: “the holy people of God are expecting not only simple and obvious condemnations but concrete and effective measures.”
Pope Francis was even more specific in 21 reflection points handed to us. I believe they reveal how closely our efforts align with his desire for the Church. For example, point 7 says, “establish specific protocols for handling accusations against bishops.” And point 19, “formulate mandatory codes of conduct for all clerics, religious, service personnel, and volunteers to outline appropriate boundaries in personal relationships.” The relevant committees of the USCCB continue to refine and consult on our proposals, but communion with the See of Peter is evident.
The Holy Spirit calls us to common ground. I was heartened to hear Archbishop Scicluna speak about a “culture of disclosure” and “user-friendly means of reporting.” Cardinal Salazar of Bogotá spoke passionately about a “Code of Conduct” for bishops. Priestly formation and seminarians as the future of ministry have also been central topics of discussion. Our work is still unfolding, but we are bringing the survivor’s experience to the very heart of the Church.
We’ve also spent time discussing how the scandal of sexual abuse has caused Catholic faithful to question their Church. As Cardinal Cupich said, “This witness of faith and justice by the laity represents not a confrontational challenge to the Church, but an ongoing and grace-filled testimony of faith and action that is essential for the pilgrim people of God to fulfill its salvific mission at this moment in history.”
The body of Christ has been lacerated by scandal, but giving ourselves to God’s loving mercy we can begin to bind the wounds. That is our responsibility before God to survivors and to all the faithful who have been so badly shaken. My hope is that these days will be an invitation for the whole Church to come together in Pope Francis’ beautiful vision of a field hospital. Whether it is in the form of professional expertise on review boards, counseling staff, safe environment trainers, the power of prayer groups, or countless other ways, may we bishops always have the courage to know we need help from God’s faithful people.
Cardinal Salazar summarized the days well: “our responsibility is a meticulous coherence between our words and actions.” Please continue to hold us in prayer.