Skip to comments.Bishop touts Catholic priests' morale
Posted on 11/14/2005 12:56:56 PM PST by SmithL
WASHINGTON - American priests maintain high morale and enjoy the appreciation of parishioners despite the molestation of minors perpetrated by a few among their ranks, the president of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Monday.
In a speech defending the clergy, Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., told a meeting of the nation's bishops that three recent studies show "the high level of morale among priests" despite the sex abuse crisis and the pressures caused by a declining vocations.
Also, "there is every indication that the Catholic people appreciate their priests," he added.
"It has been a painful time for the vast majority of priests who did nothing to deserve (the) pain" caused by abuses crisis or the resulting "avalanche of negative publicity," Skylstad said.
He added that bishops are "required by law and in conscience to respond and take necessary action where abuse is admitted or established" but "the presumption of innocence follows priests until the facts of the case indicate otherwise."
Skylstad said bishops must do better in building bonds with their clergy, noting that one survey of priests showed that only 27 percent felt they would be treated fairly if accused.
He also mentioned the effect of the scandal on fellow bishops. "There is no question these past years have taken a toll on us," he said.
The abuse crisis that erupted in January 2002 spread across the United States and beyond, with American dioceses calculating they've paid more than $1 billion in settlements and other costs since 1950 related to guilty clergy. More than 11,500 claims of abuse have been made against American priests over the last five decades.
Just before the meeting opened, the lay reform group Voice of the Faithful took the bishops to task because much of this week's discussion will occur in executive sessions rather than being open to church observers and the media.
"We were taken aback that half of this meeting is behind closed doors. The bishops should lead, not impede," said the group's vice president, Kristine Ward of Dayton, Ohio.
She said the bishops especially need to discuss openly the ongoing issues surrounding priestly abuse, which she called "the largest crisis in the past 500 years of this church." Skylstad is dealing with the problems locally in his own diocese, which has filed for bankruptcy protection against claims from abuse victims.
The bishops' public agenda may include brief routine reports Tuesday on the abuse situation but no extended discussion, said the bishops' spokesman, Monsignor Francis Maniscalco.
After midday Tuesday, the bishops will enter closed-door sessions for another day or two, making this the bishops' most secretive November session since they decided to open up their gatherings in 1972. (The hierarchy also meets each June, and sometimes those gatherings are entirely private.)
The unusual degree of closed-door deliberations this time is not a policy change but rather the product of an unusually short list of items that require formal action, Maniscalco said.
The public agenda includes a statement reaffirming opposition to the death penalty, policies for lay ministers who help overcome the church's priest shortage, liturgical and administrative matters, reports and elections.
Bishops' meetings at the Vatican and in other nations are usually secret, and over recent years some U.S. bishops have said their gatherings should provide more time in private.
Though the topics treated in secret are not disclosed, there's no shortage of sensitive possibilities to take up.
Besides the financial threats and legal tangles caused by the abuse scandal, they could perhaps discuss the current inspection of U.S. seminaries, an anticipated Vatican decree on gays in seminaries or how to deal with Catholic politicians who oppose church teaching on abortion during the 2006 campaign.
On the question of Catholic politicians, an international synod of bishops at the Vatican last month declared they have a grave responsibility to uphold church teachings. However, it set no strict rules on admitting them to Communion, saying bishops should exercise "firmness and prudence" in their local situations.
A bishops' task force led by Washington's Cardinal Theodore McCarrick plans to seek advice on this at meetings with Catholic Democrats and Republicans who were recommended by their local bishops. The bishops' headquarters declined to provide further details.
The record will show that Bishop Skylstad's own diocese is declared by him to be in bankruptcy so as not to be forced in a court of law to face further pedophile victims in court and to make payments to them. The sorry record will further show that he actually lived with one of the more notorious pedophile priests in the Spokane diocese. Negative publicity, indeed. He can thank himself for the negative publicity and he can't run from his own sorry record.
As far as I'm concerned, can be the poster boy for "the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops" (Saint John Eudes)
Yep. No problem here. Everything's great.
Must be our leadership. Continue on current
heading, Full Speed Ahead.
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