National Press Club
For Immediate Release
February 27, 2004
Opening Remarks of the Executive Director, Steve Krueger
Re: Bishop Accountability,
Lay Responsibility, and The Hope for a Declining Church
Good morning and thank you all for being here.
This morning, I am going to speak briefly about four things: failed
leadership in the Church; what the numbers of the John Jay Survey
do and don’t tell us; the importance of holding bishops responsible
for their role in knowingly transferring abusive priests and why there
is hope for a declining institution.
First, however, I want to acknowledge the thousands and thousands
of victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse who will be reminded
today of the preventable and unconscionable anguish they have suffered
throughout their lives and that may be particularly difficult today.
To all of you, on behalf of the Voice of the Faithful, and people
of good will, I want to express our heartfelt sorrow. You are, and
will always be in our prayers, particularly during this season of
Lent, a time for atonement.
Second, I also want to acknowledge the confusion that all Catholics
and people of good will experience today as we continue to reconcile
the irreconcilable and the pain of confronting the failures of an
institutional Church that we put our trust in.
There is a growing awareness that we are not just facing a clergy
sexual abuse crisis, but rather are in the midst of an era of failed
pastoral and organizational leadership, of which clergy sexual abuse
is a symptom, but not the underlying problem. The fact that this
has gone on unabated throughout our lives, unknown to us but known
to our bishops, presents us with realities and facts upon which
we can only form one conclusion.
We are learning that these failures of leadership are attributable
to at least two factors: failed decision making structures and a dysfunctional
culture imbued in secrecy and authoritarianism. The institutional
Church tell us that we have “turned the corner” on this
crisis. But, we haven’t, and won’t turn the corner until
these problems are acknowledged and our leaders are held responsible.
This is not a question of forgiveness, it is a question of accountability.
What the Numbers Do and Don’t Tell Us
As some dioceses have released their numbers, and with the leak last
week of the incomplete results, there has been the understandable
urge and need to analyze them. However, this is a difficult, if
not questionable undertaking. It is difficult because of incomparability
of many of the statistics and questionable because of the nature
and bias of self-reporting.
I suggest that one of the most important numbers today is the number “1.” Why,
you might ask? Because, no matter what statistics someone may present,
comparing even one child who was abused - to put a number in a favorable
light statistically - is a defense of the indefensible – one
child abused is one too many.
Ironically, “1” is also the number of bishops who have
resigned for their role in putting children in harm’s way.
Despite all the numbers you will hear this morning, there is one
glaring omission: the number of bishops who knowingly transferred
abusive priests. How can that be? The math does not add up: over 10,000
children abused (minimum) + over 4,000 abusive priests (minimum) +
hundreds of millions of dollars in costs (and not stated in present
value dollars) does not equal just one bishop’s resignation.
The Importance of Holding Bishop’s Responsible
How can trust be restored if those bishops who knowingly put children
in harm’s way are not held responsible? Some bishops have
said that we have turned the corner, but have we? I suggest that
we may have slowed our descent but the fundamental flaws that got
us here still exist. And we can’t turn the corner until we
acknowledge the fundamental problems. Why? Because there is no accountability
on the part of bishops. Even in November of 2003 the bishops pledged
themselves to fraternal accountability. What has come of that?
Trust cannot be restored without bishops being held responsible for
their role in all of this. If they don’t hold themselves accountable
then who will?
Why there is hope for our declining Church
Catholics may have lost trust in the church, but they are keeping
their faith. Some have left, but many have stayed to be part of
the solution to the problems of the Church. And this is the key.
There is hope because lay Catholics are realizing that they are
the Church and more and more they are realizing they have to return
responsibility to Catholicism. Some Catholics are doing that by
making their voice heard. Others are learning how to do this. Some
are taking small steps, others big ones. Everyone needs to acknowledge
their responsibility as a Catholic. Silence is no longer an option.
This is our moment and we are its keepers. Each of us must ask – how
will I answer? There is hope because lay persons are providing leadership
for the Church in a way that the hierarchy has not been able to.
Today, I briefly touched on the continuing failure of leadership in
the Catholic Church today; what the John Jay numbers do and don’t
tell us; why bishops must be held responsible for their role for
allowing children to be in harms way, and; why the laity provide
hope for the Catholic Church today.
To underscore these messages, Voice of the Faithful has initiated
an online petition last night providing Catholics a means to let their
voice be heard. There are four petitions – two to Pope John
Paul II and two to each US bishop provide a means for the laity to
return responsibility to Catholicism. The petitions can be found at
our Web site, www.voiceofthefaithful.org where all Catholics can go
to let their voice be heard and restore responsibility to Catholicism.