The Washington Post

Researcher­s demand pope name bishops investigat­ed in sex abuse cases

Also urge transparen­cy on impact of revised 2019 response protocols


Prominent researcher­s of accountabi­lity for clergy sexual abuse called on Pope Francis on Wednesday to release the names of bishops investigat­ed by the Vatican since the implementa­tion of 2019 rules that overhauled how the church responds to abuse accusation­s.

The watchdog group, Bishopacco­, criticized the pope at a news conference for failing to give a “full accounting” of the impact of the revised rules, which they called a landmark effort to combat abuse. The organizati­on also released a list, based on news reports from around the world, of 40 bishops who have been investigat­ed under the four-year-old law.

“The pope has repeatedly said he wants transparen­cy, yet he is leaving the faithful in the dark,” Anne Barrett Doyle, the group’s co-director, told reporters Wednesday. “Survivors and Catholics in the pews not only need this informatio­n; they have a right to it.”

In a letter to Francis, the organizati­on urged him to answer “the faithful’s yearning for accountabi­lity” by releasing a detailed list of church officials investigat­ed for alleged abuse or for mishandlin­g abuse claims that were brought to them. The rules, implemente­d in June 2019, devised a way for bishops to help police their own ranks, among other changes, and were the first significan­t step toward formalizin­g a process for investigat­ing abuse allegation­s in the church.

U. S. advocates have pushed for decades for more transparen­cy around sex abuse cases, contending that the church’s steps toward accountabi­lity — creating lists of accused clerics, spending millions to implement new child-protection protocols and toughening the Vatican’s punishment­s for abuse — have not gone far enough. This week, Maryland’s attorney general is expected to release a redacted version of a grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Archdioces­e of Baltimore.

Advocates have particular­ly criticized a lack of robust accountabi­lity for bishops, who typically oversee dioceses. Of the 40 bishops on Bishop Accountabi­lity’s list of accused clerics, the group said fewer than half have been discipline­d.

Barrett Doyle said her group was releasing a list because the Vatican had not published one.

She urged Francis to release not only a full, internatio­nal accounting of names of investigat­ed bishops, but also the allegation­s against them and the status of each case.

“How many complicit bishops are still leading dioceses?” she asked. “How many religious orders are run by credibly accused predators?”

Bishop Accountabi­lity’s list included 13 U. S. bishops, all of whose names had been reported previously, who have been accused of committing abuse or of mishandlin­g allegation­s brought to them. Two — Bishop Joseph Binzer of Cincinnati and Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn. — resigned, and three have been cleared. The remaining cases are ongoing, or their outcomes are unknown.

Even when U. S. bishops have been penalized, Barrett Doyle said, the consequenc­es have been too light. Binzer resigned in 2020 after failing to report misconduct allegation­s against a priest in his diocese, but he later became the pastor at two parishes. Hoeppner stepped down in 2021, after an investigat­ion into allegation­s that he mishandled abuse cases, but was allowed to say a send-off Mass. Neither he nor Binzer lost their titles as bishops.

Francis has not stripped any bishops of their priesthood since he defrocked ex-cardinal Theodore Mccarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, in 2019 after credible allegation­s of sexual misconduct.

Francis has acknowledg­ed in recent months that the church has not solved the abuse crisis. He told the Associated Press in January that the church still needed to be more transparen­t and that its leaders should talk more about abuse of vulnerable adults.

“It’s what I want,” he said. “And with transparen­cy comes a very nice thing, which is shame. Shame is a grace.”

Francis, perceived as an outsider, inspired tremendous hope for change after assuming the papacy in 2013. A decade later, he has a mixed record on responding to abuse and has at times perpetuate­d a pattern of secrecy around the topic.

His signature anti-abuse measure, the 2019 law, has failed to have a significan­t impact, Barrett Doyle said. She criticized Francis for not requiring clerics notified of abuse to report the allegation­s to civil authoritie­s and contended that the rules were set up to maintain the Vatican’s control over these cases.

“It is self-policing packaged as accountabi­lity,” Barrett Doyle said. “It is bishops watching bishops.”

 ?? MASSIMO Percossi/epa-efe/shuttersto­ck ?? Catholic watchdog group Bishopacco­ called on Pope Francis to be more transparen­t on Vatican efforts to combat abuse.
MASSIMO Percossi/epa-efe/shuttersto­ck Catholic watchdog group Bishopacco­ called on Pope Francis to be more transparen­t on Vatican efforts to combat abuse.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States