Dallas Action Flawed
Upon reading Archbishop’s Lori’s letter to the Diocese addressing the contents of the diocesan investigation into former Bishop Bransfield (as exposed by the Washington Post), I was struck by the following comment:
“There is no excuse, nor adequate explanation, that will satisfy the troubling question of how his behavior was allowed to continue for as long as it did without the accountability that we must require of those who have been entrusted with so much — both spiritual and material — as bishops and pastors.”
If Archbishop Lori is searching for an explanation as to how a bishop could pillage and plunder the church without oversight or accounability, I suggest that he search his own memories from the Dallas Charter in 2002.
For this, I would like to provide historical context:
In 2002, in the aftermath of the Boston Globe’s reporting of the clerical sexual abuse scandal in Boston, the U.S. bishops met in Dallas, to devise strategies to combat sexual abuse by the clergy. This meeting was known as “The Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
Ironically, one of the “leaders” of this movement was former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. (If this name sounds familiar, it should. Theodore McCarrick was recently defrocked by Pope Francis for serial sexual predation.) McCarrick, along with other bishops, rigged the charter to specifically exclude bishops from oversight.
The original draft included all “clerics” as subject to the provisions of the charter. But as the bishops debated and amended the final version of the charter, revisions were made, and the term “clerics” was replaced with “priests and deacons.”
Then-Archbishop Elden Curtiss inquired as to why such a revision was made. He declared that “bishops are also clerics.” Speaking for the drafting committee, Bishop Lori (then a bishop in Connecticuit) explained that they “decided we would limit it to priests and deacons, as the disciplining of bishops is beyond the purview of this document. ‘Cleric’ would cover all three, so we decided not to use the word ‘cleric.'”
In the 17 years since the Dallas Charter, certainly a lot of good has come about from the reforms. Reporting programs and lay oversight committees have since been established. As the father of four children educated in our local Catholic schools, I can attest to the VIRTUS program (a program that educates teachers, parents, and other adults who interact with children about sexual abuse, and provide them with information to help prevent abuse).
Unfortunately, the Dallas Charter did not go far enough. This precedent of subjecting laity, deacons and priests to one set of rules, while holding the bishops to another set of rules, does not make sense. Perhaps this attitude explains why some bishops act as if they are beyond reproach.
I’m not certain if Archbishop Lori’s involvement in the Dallas Charter of 2002 makes him more or less qualified to oversee the investigation of former Bishop Bransfield. And I’m even more confused as to how he has not recused himself, in light of the revelation that he received $7,500 in monetary gifts from our former bishop. But I hope that our temporary shepherd will enact lessons learned from the past. Lessons that have come at such great expense to our diocese.