American Catholic bishops gather for weeklong retreat to address clergy abuse crisis

Mark Abrams
January 04, 2019 - 4:00 am
More than 225 of the nation's Catholic bishops are gathered at a seminary in Illinois for a weeklong retreat to discern a path for addressing the clerical abuse crisis that has gripped the American church.

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — More than 225 of the nation's Catholic bishops are gathered at a seminary in Illinois for a weeklong retreat to discern a path for addressing the clerical abuse crisis that has gripped the American church.  

Villanova theology professor Massimo Faggioli says the gathering at Mundelein Seminary, north of Chicago, is unprecedented.     

"It's the first time in modern history that a pope that has been challenged directly by the bishops of one nation doesn't punish them or chooses as a punishment this weeklong retreat, spiritual retreat," Faggioli said. 

An eight-page letter written by Pope Francis dated Jan. 1 was delivered to the bishops. In it, the pope scolded them for their divisive behavior and finger-pointing and cover-ups of the sins and crimes of clerical abuse.

While not directing them to come up with any specific solutions ahead of a Vatican meeting of global church leaders in February, he called on the American bishops to root their responses to the abuse crisis in Scripture.

READ: US Catholic bishops to pray over clergy sexual abuse scandal

Faggioli says that's the pope's style. 

"His way of dealing with crisis is not structural, it's not in terms of policies first. But it is mostly in terms of spiritual challenge," he said.  

He also says the pope recognizes this is a global crisis.

"The pope is clearly now focused on addressing this issue, not as an issue that is in one country alone or in one continent alone, but in the whole world," he explained. 

Faggioli adds the Vatican knows it has to take steps to restore the confidence of Catholics. 

"The most important thing is how to develop a culture of protection of minors and of victims and getting rid of the culture of concealment," he said. 

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who recently underwent knee surgery, is recuperating and did not make the trip. 

He sent auxiliary bishops to represent the archdiocese.