On Monday, Catholic News Agency reported that the Vatican has cancelled the US bishops’ vote on reform measures that were intended to address the clergy sex abuse crisis.
The article from CNA states that according to Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), American bishops will not be permitted to vote on two important proposals set before them. The proposals had been expected to lay the foundation for the Church’s response to widespread accusations of sexual abuse from around the country.
The sudden directive from the Vatican came at the beginning of the U.S. bishops’ fall general assembly, which is meeting in Baltimore from November 12-14.
Cardinal DiNardo himself made the shocking announcement at the assembly, telling the visibly surprised crowd that the order came directly from the Holy See.
The bishops had been considering--and planning to vote upon--both a new code of conduct for bishops, and the establishment of a body of lay-led people to investigate bishops accused of sexual misconduct.
But now the Vatican has decided that the discussion and vote will, at the very least, be delayed--supposedly until after Pope Francis has held a special meeting in Rome slated for February. The meeting, according to the Vatican, will include bishops’ conference presidents from all over the world, and will allegedly address the sexual abuse crisis from a global perspective.
Prior to the US bishops’ assembly in Baltimore, two documents had been circulating. One of them was a draft for a new Standards of Conduct for bishops, and the other was a proposal to form a special lay “investigative commission” intended to look into claims of abuse against bishops.
The intent behind the proposals was two-fold. They promised to offer both a way for bishops to come out of the meeting having done something productive to address the crisis, and to send the message to American Catholics that the bishops are indeed taking action to address the many sexual abuse scandals that continue to plague the Church.
Cardinal DiNardo reportedly made the announcement Monday before the conference session had even been called to order, telling the bishops that he was personally “disappointed” with Rome’s decision. He added however that in spite of the seeming setback, he was hopeful that February’s meeting at the Vatican would prove to be fruitful, and ultimately helpful to the American bishops in achieving their goals.
CNA reports that while DiNardo was still speaking, Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago interrupted from the floor, in an apparent attempt to defend Pope Francis’ last-minute decision to delay action on clergy sexual abuse in the United States.
“It is clear the Holy See is taking the abuse crisis seriously,” Cupich declared.
Cupich went on to suggest that rather than have the bishops’ plans go to waste, they should move forward with the discussions even if they would not yet culminate in a binding vote.
According to CNN, many of the bishops present at the assembly were clearly unhappy with the last-minute intervention from the Vatican.
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Vermont admitted the bishops had been "thrown a little sidewise" by Monday's announcement that there would be a delay in addressing the sex abuse crisis.
And during a press conference Monday, Cardinal DiNardo opened up about his own personal frustrations regarding the matter.
"We are not, ourselves, happy about this," DiNardo said. "We have been working hard to get to the action stage, and we'll do it, but we have to get past this bump in the road."