R. Daniel Conlon is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Joliet, Illinois. He is also chairperson of the USCCB’s Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.
In an August 13, 2012 address to the National Safe Environment and Victim Assistance Coordinators Leadership Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, Bishop Conlon acknowledged that the US hierarchy’s credibility on fixing the sexual abuse problem is “shredded” and that the situation is comparable to the Reformation, when “the episcopacy, the regular clergy, even the papacy were discredited.” Bishop Conlon’s Omaha address was published in the 30 August edition of Origins.
The Bishop of Joliet said he had always assumed that consistently implementing the bishops’ policies on child protection, “coupled with some decent publicity, would turn public opinion around.” With genuine frankness, he added: “I now know this was an illusion,” and acknowledged there is a widespread impression that the bishops “have failed to keep their commitments.”
Yes. Bishop Conlon is correct. Our bishops do have shredded credibility, but their lost credibility stretches far beyond sexual abuse issues. Our bishops dress like Renaissance princes and think and speak like nineteenth century ecclesiastical bureaucrats. Their’s is a scrambled theology….
The times have changed, but our contemporary Catholic bishops, starting with the Bishop of Rome, are feverishly tying to reverse all the church’s clocks.
Nineteenth century Catholicism — which lasted well into the 1950s when many of our bishops were pubescent little boys — was anchored in a static, unchanging, view of reality and a Catholic ethos that stressed: blind obedience to authority — sins as primarily of a sexual nature — the superiority of the ordained — the inferiority of women — and an absolute disdain for anyone who dared to think, ask a question, or challenge Church leadership.
As Cardinal Martini said, the Church is 200 years behind the times. But most Catholics are not!
Our credibility is rooted in authentic and contemporary Christian witness. Our challenge is to challenge EVERYONE in the Church to make it happen.