Wineke: Church must do this to prove sincerity

Wineke: Church must do this to prove sincerity

The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops have launched yet another program to prove they are sincere about ending the church’s sex abuse crisis.

This time, they are initiating a hotline people can call to report wayward priests or bishops. It might work. Who knows?

As you might guess, I’m skeptical. I’ve been writing about this issue for more than a quarter-century.

The church keeps saying that, this time, they really mean it. Then it goes on to things it really cares about.

If the bishops want to do something to prove their sincerity this time, there is one thing they might do that would carry some weight — with me, at least.

They could invite the Rev. Thomas Doyle to one of their meetings and issue him a public apology.

Doyle, a native of Spring Green, was once an up-and-coming young Dominican priest. He had been hired as a canon lawyer to serve at the Vatican embassy in Washington, and one of his jobs dealt with relations with American bishops.

In the 1980s, he became involved in the investigation of a priest in Louisiana who had abused children and, in the course of that investigation, learned that child sexual abuse was far more common than anyone previously thought.

Two things then happened. The first is that Doyle and others managed to make sure that every bishop in the country received a report warning of the dangers. The second is that Doyle lost his job.

Rather than rewarding him for safeguarding the children of the church, the church assigned him to be an Air Force chaplain serving Germany and Greenland.

When that didn’t shut him up, he was removed from his chaplaincy post, as well. Doyle is still a priest, but he has no assignment and lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he still works on child abuse cases on behalf of victims, not the church.

In the meantime, the church has paid out billions of dollars in settlements, lost millions of members and, I’m reasonably sure, learned nothing.

The latest developments in the church at large suggest new programs to hold bishops accountable – but say the bishops will be held accountable to the bishops higher up the ladder than are they.
What could possibly go wrong?

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick could go wrong. The former archbishop of Washington, D.C., and counselor to popes, including Pope Francis, was, in his late 80s, finally stripped of his ordination because he had abused countless seminarians during his career.

Would apologizing to Doyle change anything?

I’m not sure. But the one thing I have noticed about the bishops over the decades is that, no matter what pious words they use, they don’t really believe they have done anything wrong.

A public apology to an individual priest who tried hard to save them from their arrogance would, at a minimum, show humility that I haven’t yet seen, and humility is the first step toward redemption.

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