Ecclesiastical process is a tiresome, worn-out dodge used by American Catholic bishops to paper over virtually every step of the sexual-abuse scandal by priests. Two years ago, Seattle...
Ecclesiastical process is a tiresome, worn-out dodge used by American Catholic bishops to paper over virtually every step of the sexual-abuse scandal by priests.
Two years ago, Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett offered a pithy observation that suggested he shared the frustration of the laity with bishops who spoke one way and acted another:
“Our people are waiting for some kind of sign at all that we recognize we have some culpability in this matter,” he said.
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Now it appears Brunett is backsliding himself, delaying the release of a half-dozen names of offending priests until after the Vatican has looked at their cases.
The archbishop rightly has been challenged by the diocese’s own independent review board, which looked at local cases of priests accused of sexual abuse. Brunett is trying to shoulder aside a distinguished and credentialed panel of Catholics and non-Catholics worried about the future of the church and the treatment of the scandal’s victims.
Among the charges aired in a tough, critical letter is a false sense that all problems with sexually abusive priests are resolved and safeguards are in place.
Symptomatic of these issues is a refusal by Brunett to name six priests who, in the words of the diocese, “have been barred from any active ministry, may not represent themselves as a priest, may not wear clerical garb or be referred to as ‘Father,’ and are being monitored by a compliance officer pending the final disposition of the allegations against them.”
The time is past due to identify priests whose deeds are clearly known to the church.
Brunett’s use of the process ruse is especially galling because he is being challenged by a panel that includes two retired judges and a former federal attorney. They are mindful and respectful of process, but they, too, want the names published.
Transparency is proclaimed to be a central value of the diocese in coping with this tragedy, central to healing and reconciliation.
The archbishop is not living up to those intentions. Good people with intimate knowledge of the accused clergy and the diocese’s response are upset.
Brunett’s position only serves to protect an institution at the expense of those it is supposed to serve.