Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Chicago Laity Denounce Bishops' Betrayal of Trust. (Cover Story)

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Chicago Laity Denounce Bishops' Betrayal of Trust. (Cover Story)

Article excerpt

"We have seen too little accountability, too much privilege. Our shepherds are more concerned with the paint on the ranch house than the well-being of their flocks.... What faith we might have had in our leaders has been broken, broken, broken."

The speaker, Julie Drew, a public schoolteacher, was one of the scores that addressed a packed room of 300 at St. Joseph's School in suburban Wilmette, Ill., May 21. This was one of 38 sites in the Chicago archdiocese where laity were urged to voice their concerns and suggestions about the priest abuse scandal. And everywhere, it seemed, the major and most passionate topic was the hierarchy's betrayal of trust.

"We have an institutionalized, systemic cover-up, said Betty Vitale, a social worker, at the Wilmette gathering. She expressed fear that whatever policies the bishops develop at their meeting in June will have "slick cover-ups built into them."

"The church has abrogated all trust," said a former school principal from Winnetka. "Our institutional leaders have put their needs above the needs of the people of God."

A recovery of trust will come only from a binding national policy, said an elderly Wilmette man, who declared that clergy, laity and religious must participate in its development and implementation. He also called for a nationwide forum on the selection process for bishops, the ordination of women and homosexuals and remarriage after divorce. "The bishops must become full partners with the people of God," he said.

The archdiocesan hearings were authorized by Cardinal Francis George to provide lay input for the June meeting. They were moderated by members of the Chicago Catholic Lawyers Guild, who taped all the sessions and will compile a summary for George. The cardinal declined to attend any of the hearings lest his presence "inhibit" speakers, said a spokesman. …

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