Friday, February 10, 2017

TODAY'S PRESS CONFERENCE AND TWO POINTS

Posted by Tim

Today at 1:30, Archbishop Byrnes held a press conference to provide an update on his response to the sex abuse scandal in our diocese. You can watch the video of the conference here

I would just like to make two points. I found it odd that Archbishop Byrnes chose to begin and end the opening prayer WITHOUT the Sign of the Cross. So just a note to the Archbishop: We Catholics in Guam are not shy about making the Sign of the Cross in public. Feel free to do it.

My next point is taken from the PDN reporters question: What happens if it is the bishop himself who is accused? 

The USCCB'S CHARTER FOR THE PROTECTION OF YOUNG PEOPLE makes one small provision for this at the end (which we will examine). However, as you can see by the samples of the language from the Charter below, the Charter assumes that the offending cleric is a priest or deacon, while the bishop is consistently mentioned only in his governance role:

Article 5
Diocesan/eparchial policy is to provide that for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor* whenever it occurred—which is admitted or established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon is to be permanently removed from ministry and, if warranted, dismissed from the clerical state. 

The diocesan/eparchial bishop is to exercise his power of governance, within the parameters of the universal law of the Church, to ensure that any priest or deacon subject to his governance who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described below (see note) shall not continue in ministry.

A priest or deacon who is accused of sexual abuse of a minor is to be accorded the presumption of innocence during the investigation

Norms
6. When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon is received, a preliminary investigation in accordance with canon law will be initiated 

8. When even a single act of sexual abuse by a priest or deacon is admitted or is established after an appropriate process in accord with canon law, the offending priest or deacon will be removed permanently from ecclesiastical ministry

9. ...diocesan bishop/eparch shall exercise this power of governance to ensure that any priest or deacon who has committed even one act of sexual abuse of a minor as described above shall not continue in active ministry

10 The priest or deacon may at any time request a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state. In exceptional cases, the bishop/eparch may request of the Holy Father the dismissal of the priest or deacon from the clerical state ex officio, even without the consent of the priest or deacon. 

12. No priest or deacon who has committed an act of sexual abuse of a minor may be transferred for a ministerial assignment in another diocese/eparchy

The possibility of bishops as the "accused" surfaces only twice. Once in the Preamble: "The sexual abuse of children and young people by some deacons, priests, and bishops" and next in "A Statement of Episcopal Commitment," at the end of the Charter:

2. We will apply the requirements of the Charter also to ourselves, respecting always Church law as it applies to bishops. Therefore, if a bishop is accused of the sexual abuse of a minor, the accused bishop is obliged to inform the Apostolic Nuncio. If another bishop becomes aware of the sexual abuse of a minor by another bishop or of an allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor by a bishop, he too is obliged to inform the Apostolic Nuncio and comply with applicable civil laws. 

As you can see, the bishop has to tell on himself, or at best, another bishop is supposed to. So even though the above says that the requirements of the Charter "will also apply to ourselves," by virtue of the fact that he must tell on himself to the Nuncio exempts him from the provisions of the Charter relative to the treatment of priests and deacons. 

Also, there is no information about what will happen beyond the Nuncio. It disappears into the Roman labyrinth of secrecy.  This is exactly why Apuron used to sing (and maybe still does), "No one can get me." 

Still, kudos to Byrnes for trying to go in the right direction. He has an opportunity here to truly gain the trust he says he is seeking by modifying the Charter to include the word "bishop" wherever it says "priest or deacon," and to clearly outline what happens after the Nuncio is informed. 

He might also want to include a provision which prohibits bishops from threatening to sue their accusers to "defend the Church," as Apuron threatened to do and would have done had there not been JungleWatch. 

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