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The McCarrick Case is Haunting the Youth Synod

One of the most striking things about this month’s Youth Synod is what is missing. We have heard from various quarters about the Synod Fathers’ need to be the leaders of a “listening Church” – and to lead by example – and we have heard about the bishops’ “credibility deficit” in various ways and modes of diction. But the root problem, the abuse crisis, often remains the elephant in the room.

Some bishops, it’s true, have acknowledged it quite frankly. Before coming to Rome for the nearly month-long gathering, Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut told the National Catholic Reporter, “I am going to advocate that the synod needs to make [the crisis] a major topic now, without a doubt.” Caggiano went on to tell the Reporter, “It’s about leadership being accountable. It’s about transparency. I think the greatest scandal is when, you know, things are not accounted for, or hidden or not transparent. That shakes people’s faith.”

Bishop Caggiano began to make good on his promise in a floor speech in the synod hall on Thursday. “Bishop Caggiano – one of the American delegates – gave a very good intervention,” said Bishop Robert Barron on Thursday evening at a colloquy sponsored by the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture.

“[Caggiano] made the observation – with which I very much agree – that, if you go back ten years, let’s say, and you look at surveys of why young people stay away from the Church, or feel alienated, the sex abuse scandal was not up near the top. It was often mentioned, but way down [on the list],” said Bishop Barron. “Many other things were far higher on the list,” he continued. “Now, that has shifted around, in the wake of the recent outbreak.”

While one may lament that the bishops only make a show of addressing the crisis under the aspect of scandal – in essence a marketing liability – one may suppose that something is better than nothing, and that the maxim “better late than never” also applies. Nevertheless, all the bishops in the world talking all the day long will not repair the real injustice done to victims, nor will it restore the trust that is in tatters, nor will it serve to remove the scandal – in the technical sense – of moral decay in the clerical and hierarchical leadership culture, high and low – a scandal epitomised by the revelations regarding the disgraced former archbishop of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick.

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