Audit continues

June 21, 2004

Fr. Peter J. Daly

Parish Diary


            Thank God cooler heads prevailed at the Bishops’ meeting in June.

            By a vote of 207 to 14, our bishops approved a second round of child protection audits of all the dioceses in the U.S. I’m glad the vote was so lopsided. It is reassuring.

            For a while there I was worried.

It seemed that some bishops were back peddling on their commitment made at Dallas in June of 2002. There they had promised to make a full accounting of the extent of the problem of child abuse by clergy in the U.S in the last 50 years. They had promised in their “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” to undertake an “annual public report on the progress made in implementing” child protection programs.

For a while in April and May, it seemed that some bishops wanted to back away from that commitment. Several prominent and powerful bishops asked for a delay in the audits. One bishop said they needed a “breather.”

Some seemed to want to discredit the National Review Board which they themselves had established. It seemed that some few bishops disliked being held accountable either to lay people or to public opinion.

They did not want to be forced to account for their actions in the past or their current efforts at reform.

But it was precisely that spirit of secrecy that got us into trouble in the first place. It is precisely that attitude, that they should not be held accountable, that lead to such irresponsible actions on the part of some bishops in reassigning miscreant priests.

Thank God, the number of bishops who resented the audits is only a tiny minority of our shepherds. The audits will continue, at least for a second year.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Catholics want sunlight on this issue. We want to know the truth, whatever it may be.

Last year the Church made a good start with the study done by the John Jay School of Law and released by the National Review Board. Now is not the time to take a breather.

A few bishops seem to be “tone deaf” on this matter. After three years of scandal, a few do not seem to realize that only absolute candor will restore our credibility with the average Catholic and with general public.  

Priests did not ask for a delay in the audits or a retreat from the principals of the Charter. I would bet that if the priests of the U.S. were asked if they want the audits to continue to insure compliance, we would say yes just as resoundingly as our bishops did.

The disclosure of data last year made by the National Review Board did not the cause the scandal. On the contrary, the National Review Board is a life raft of credibility for the U.S. Catholic Church. Its disclosures were the antidote to scandal.

The silent majority of the bishops was not  tone deaf” on the issue of the audits and the desire to press ahead on with the provisions of the Charter. Most bishops have long since heard the cry of the Church to know the truth.

Because, as the Lord said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”