Bishop Braxton’s Statement on the Holy See’s Request to Delay Voting on Abuse

Dear People of God:

As you know, I am in Baltimore for the autumn meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. On Sunday, I participated in the meeting of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People during which we discussed a number of issues critical to the current crisis. The Bishops spent yesterday primarily in prayer and listening to lay women and men expressing their concerns for those who have been abused by members of the clergy and their dissatisfaction with the way some Bishops have responded to this abuse. Our Monday session began with the unexpected announcement by Cardinal DiNardo, our Conference President, informing us that the Holy See has asked that we delay the vote on the Standards of Episcopal Conduct and the Special Commission for Review of Complaints Against Bishops for Violations of the Standards of Episcopal Conduct. Most of the Bishop were surprised and disappointed by this instruction from the Holy See. As a result, a decision was made that we should at least discuss these documents and vote on them at a later date.

The reason for the Holy See’s request for the delay was not because of any expressed objection to the contents of these proposed documents. Rather, it was because the Holy Father wanted the Bishops of the United States to wait until after the February meeting that he has called for Presidents of Episcopal Conferences from around the world. This meeting will address the same issues and perhaps make additional proposals. The delay will make sure that the policies of the Episcopal Conferences of each country are consistent and have the “recognitio” (or approval) of the Holy See.

I am aware it is possible that many people may think that this is an intentional delay without a serious reason. However, it might be helpful to recall that even though many people speak of the “American Church” or the “Australian Church”, or the “Nigerian Church”, these expressions are not exactly correct. The correct expression would be the “Catholic Church in the United States”, the “Catholic Church in Australia”, or the “Catholic Church in Nigeria”. Strictly speaking, there is no American Church. There is one universal Catholic Church and its center is in Rome where St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred and where St. Peter’s Successor leads the worldwide Catholic Church as the Bishop of Rome.

I am confident that even with this delay the Bishops will approve an appropriate version of these documents.

I am attaching a news article concerning this matter which you may find helpful.

Please continue to remember me and my fellow Bishops in your prayers.

Yours in Christ,.

The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Ph.D., S.T.D.
Bishop of Belleville


Holy See Urges US Bishops to Delay Voting on Abuse until February Meeting at Vatican

BALTIMORE (CNS) — At the urging of the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will not vote on two proposals they were to discuss at their Baltimore meeting regarding their response to the clergy sex abuse crisis.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, informed the bishops as they opened their fall general assembly Nov. 12 that the Vatican wanted the bishops to delay any vote until after a February meeting with the pope and presidents of the bishops’ conferences around the world that will focus on addressing clergy abuse. Affected are proposed standards of episcopal conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards.

Cardinal DiNardo said he was disappointed that no action would be taken during the assembly, but that he was hopeful that the delay “will improve our response to the crisis we face.”

The cardinal’s announcement came two days after Pope Francis met with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, at the Vatican. Archbishop Pierre returned to the United States Nov. 11 in time for the first day of the U.S. bishops’ general fall assembly in Baltimore.

However, at a midday news conference, Cardinal DiNardo said the request to delay action came from the Congregation for Bishops.

The assembly planned to move forward with discussion of both proposals from the bishop’s Administrative Committee. The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

In response, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago suggested the general assembly move forward with its discussion of the two proposals. He also called for a special assembly in March to weigh and vote on the measures after being informed by the outcome of the February meeting in Rome.

“It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church,” Cardinal Cupich said, adding that the February meeting was a “watershed moment” in church history. “We need to be clear where we stand and tell our people where we stand,” he said.

Later in the morning session, just before the assembly adjourned for a day of prayer and penitence, Cardinal DiNardo opened his presidential address pointing to the weakness within the church that has led to the clergy abuse crisis. Repeatedly citing the words of St. Augustine, he said “in order that weakness might become strong, strength became weak.”

He called for action to lift the entire brotherhood of bishops from a place of weakness that has allowed the clergy sex abuse crisis to exist. While there were to be no votes on specific action at the meeting, he said the deliberations the bishops would undertake would set them on the route to healing for the church and for victims of abuse.

He also held up his own weakness to victims, saying: “Where I have not been watchful or alert to your needs, wherever I have failed, I am deeply sorry.”

Cardinal DiNardo urged the bishops to root themselves in the life and teaching of Jesus to lead the church and the victims of abuse to healing. He also called for the bishops to focus on the needs of victims so that “our example not lead a single person away from the Lord.”

He also said that the bishops must be as accountable as anyone else in ministry in the church and that they, like priests and other church workers, must adhere to the same standards of conduct identified in the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

“Whether we will be remembered as guardians of the abused or of the abuser will be determined by our action beginning this week and the months ahead. Let us draw near to Christ today sacrificing him our own ambitions and promptly submit ourselves totally to what he demands of us both in love and justice,” he said.

In his seven-minute address, the cardinal said that he read that St. Augustine warned there are two extremes that pose dangers to the faithful — despair and presumption.

“We and the faithful can fall into despair believing that there is no hope for the church or (for) good change in the church. We can also believe that there are no hopes for healing from these sins,” he said.

“But we must always remember that there is a thing called trusting faith and it leads us on our current journey. This trusting faith provides us roots, roots for a living memory. Our people need this living memory of hope,” he said.

Presumption can lull the church into inactivity, he added, “by presuming that this will blow over, that things simply return to normal on their own. Some would say this is entirely a crisis of the past, and it is not. We must never victimize survivors over again by demanding that they heal on our timeline.”

While the majority of abuse incidents occurred decades ago, the pain among victims “is daily and present,” he continued and warned against leaving behind people who have been hurt by clergy.

“In justice we must search for every child of God whose innocence is lost to a horrific predator at any time decades ago or this very day,” Cardinal DiNardo said. He explained that healing can result through forgiveness, adding, “Let us not only be willing but also ready and eager to ask for forgiveness.” “Combating the evil of sexual assault in the church will require all our spiritual and physical resources,” he said. “We must draw near to Christ in our sorrow, in humility and in contrition to better hear his voice and discern his will. It is only after listening that we can carry out the changes needed, the changes the people of God are rightfully demanding.”