Healing Will Be Ongoing Process
As Roman Catholic Archbishop William Lori pointed out in an interview we published Sunday, restoring trust in the church’s Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston will be an ongoing process. What church leaders must keep in mind is that Catholics in the diocese will be watching closely, for years.
Lori, of Baltimore, was appointed to oversee the diocese temporarily after former Bishop Michael Bransfield retired in disgrace. It was left to Lori to deal with financial mismanagement by Bransfield, allegations the former bishop sexually harassed some young priests, and the church-wide scandal of predator priests victimizing children and adults.
Trouble such as that within the diocese cannot be resolved overnight. As Lori put it, he has been doing “the groundwork” for an ongoing time of healing.
Steps taken during the past year or so have been good. A list of predator priests who worked in the diocese has been released. An investigation found accusations of harassment against Bransfield to be credible. The former bishop’s use of millions of dollars in church funds for his own benefit was revealed.
Safeguards have been put in place to prevent financial misdeeds as well as other misbehavior by the clergy.
A council overseeing diocesan finances has been doubled in size and made more effective by including members with special expertise. Some Mountain State Catholics will want to examine for themselves how money is being spent.
Restoring trust will require that those who want to go over the diocese’s books for themselves be permitted to do so. That may be a difficult step for the church, but it is necessary to let rank-and-file Catholics have a role in financial oversight.
More troubling is the presence of predator priests within the church. One list of those who worked in the diocese has been released. Continual updating — and public release of new information — is essential.
Lori pointed out that in his home diocese, the list of predators has been updated continuously. When a massive report on sexual abuse by priests was released in Pennsylvania, “We asked ourselves who on that list served in Baltimore; we found some names and put them on our website,” the archbishop explained. Similar steps must be taken in West Virginia.
Mistrust of some in the church did not explode overnight. It was years in the making. Restoring trust will require years, too — along with vigilance and candor by Catholic officials.