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Fail – Cardinal Wuerl on Sex Abuse Crisis

Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, DC and newly elevated cardinal, appeared on Fox News Sunday this past weekend. (Full transcript here)  In a cordial interview, Chris Wallace asked questions on topics such as a yard sign evangelization campaign, declining Mass attendance, priest sex abuse scandal, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, same-sex marriage and its implications on the Church’s social outreach.

Cardinal Wuerl’s responses were articulate and diplomatic as is his reputation, but the response that had me shaking my head was on the sexual abuse topic. Here’s the transcript:

WALLACE: I want to ask about a specific problem, though. Because clearly, you would agree that the church priest abuse sex scandal was very damaging to the church, and hurt a lot of Catholics’ views about the church. 

You helped write the guidelines for the U.S. bishops. Are you confident that today that a priest who is accused of sexual abuse is not just transferred to another parish and is promptly reported to civil authorities? 

WUERL: I think that is one of the great accomplishments of the Catholic Church. When we look back and we talk about sexual abuse, we’re talking about something that happened 10, 20, even 30 years ago

We have succeeded in terms of the church and her response. We have succeeded in guaranteeing that if a priest is accused and there is a credible allegation, he is simply removed from the ministry, that is reported to the authorities and we begin to try to heal whatever was damaged in that abuse. 

I think it’s one of the great accomplishments of the church. It recognized there was a serious problem. It dealt with it forthright and then moved on to see that we’re in a much, much better place, a much safer place today. 

Great accomplishment? Guaranteeing? Moved on? No! Note to hierarchy…strike this vocabulary from any attempt to respond to questions on this topic. This is still public relations spin on getting beyond a crisis. It leaves me and hopefully every other sentient person wondering when some clergy are going to get it–especially a new cardinal. Just three days before Christmas Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels told authorities there that he saw no reason for the church to compensate victims of sexual abuse.  (as much as I hate to link to NCR, story here)  There are still reports yet to be released on the crisis in Europe, never mind other dioceses around the globe that have yet to make any public revelations.  The Church cannot and should not move beyond this because the damage that it caused will last generations. For victims the damage will last a lifetime.  Check out this previously posted article on the topic.

Perhaps it would have been better for the cardinal to first acknowledge the cataclysmic damage, ruined lives and destroyed faith of so many in the Church caused by the scandal. Only then should he express his confidence that the Church in the US has–to the best of her abilities–taken serious measures to prevent this from recurring in the future. No moving on…in the words of Pope Benedict in his curial address:

We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen. 

“We must discover a new resoluteness in faith and in doing good. We must be capable of doing penance. We must be determined to make every possible effort in priestly formation to prevent anything of the kind from happening again.

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