Magazine article Newsweek

Battle of the Faithful: Catholics Are Voicing Hurt and Anger over the Church's Sexual-Abuse Crisis. Is the Hierarchy Listening?

Magazine article Newsweek

Battle of the Faithful: Catholics Are Voicing Hurt and Anger over the Church's Sexual-Abuse Crisis. Is the Hierarchy Listening?

Article excerpt

Byline: David France

Marty St. George moved to the front of the brightly lit cafeteria of St. Joseph School in Wilmette, Ill., a suburb north of Chicago, past more than 80 other parishioners who had come to an unofficial forum to offer their ideas for ending the seemingly endless abuse crisis. To him, the issue is as much about derelict bishops as abusive priests. "At the core is a breakdown of responsibility, of too many of the church hierarchy choosing themselves over their flocks."

Similar gatherings have taken place in parishes across the country as Roman Catholics have sought to influence church bishops before their semi-annual meeting opens in Dallas late this week. Many of the listening sessions were organized by church leaders. But much of the initiative has come from outside the hierarchy, as it did in Chicago, sometimes with explicit disapproval of local dioceses. In Boston--where the scandal first broke five months ago--Cardinal Bernard Law has sought to quell lay organizations, calling them "potentially divisive." Despite that, a movement called Voice of the Faithful began there in February. It now has 13,000 members in 40 states, all demanding a role in navigating the church out of its worst crisis in centuries. So far, the groups have had little success.

Last week the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse released a controversial draft proposal for handling sex-abuse cases that will be debated at the Dallas meeting. The document calls for the dismissal of any priest hit with new charges, as well as past serial offenders and diagnosed pedophiles, but stops short of a "zero tolerance" policy--it allows one-time offenders from years back to continue in the ministry. …

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