CAN BISHOPS REGAIN TRUST?

American Catholic bishops are meeting  for the first time since the church was rocked with its worst sex abuse scandal in 16 years. What happened and why? Can the bishops regain the trust of the faithful? We have the latest.

Aired on November 12, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

THESE ARE DARK DAYS FOR THE AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.

16 YEARS AFTER A SEX ABUSE SCANDAL ROCKED THE BOSTON ARCH DIOCESE AND THE COUNTRY, THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS ONCE AGAIN IN CRISIS, THIS TIME NOT SO MUCH BECAUSE OF REPREHENSIBLE ACTS COMMITTED BY PRIESTS IN THE RECTORY, BUT RATHER BECAUSE OF THE ACTIONS OF POWERFUL BISHOPS ACROSS THE COUNTRY WHO HAVE ENABLED SECTXUAL MISCONDUCT ANDN SOME CASES COMMITTED IT THEMSELVES.

ACCORDING TO THE BOSTON GLOBE AND PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER, MORE THAN 130 BISHOPS HAVE BEEN ACCUSED OF HAVING ADEQUATELY TO RESPOND TO SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IN THEIR DIOCESE AND AT LEAST 15 BISHOPS ARE ACCUSE THE OF OF COMMITTING SUCH ACTS.

THE ARCHBISHOP OP OF WASHINGTON, D.C. WHO RESIGNED FROM CARDINALS IN JULY, FOLLOWED AN INVESTIGATION CONCLUDED HE CREDIBLY ABUSED AN ALTAR BOY AT SAINT PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL IN THE EARLY '70s.

HOW DID IT ALL COME TO THIS?

HOW FAR YOU UP DOES THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THESE CRIMES GO AND WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THIS COUNTRY AND AROUND THE WORLD?

JOINING US NOW TO TALK ABOUT ALL THAT IS DAVID GIBSON, LONG-TIME VATICAN CORRESPONDENT AND THE DIRECTOR OF THE PICKFORD HAM CENTER ON RELIGION AND CULTURE.

DAVID, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY.

GREAT TO BE HERE, THANKS.

DAVID, HOW DID IT COME TO THIS?

REALLY THIS IS SOMETHING YOU COULD HAVE FORESEEN BACK IN 2002, YOU KNOW, FOLLOWING THE WHOLE BOSTON GLOBE SPOTLIGHT INVESTIGATION AND THE BISHOPS WENT DOWN TO THEIR MEETING IN DALLAS IN 2002 TO ADDRESS THIS SCANDAL.

AND I WAS THERE, WE WERE ALL THERE COVERING IT.

AND THEY, THEY ADDRESSED IT QUITE EFFECTIVELY IN TERMS OF THE PRIESTS, THE LOW-HANGING FRUIT, THE STOPPING -- YOU KNOW, THEY FORMULATED POLICIES, A CHARTER, TO -- OF ZERO TOLERANCE TO GET ANY PRIEST WHO ABUSED ANY MINOR OUT OF THE PRIESTHOOD.

WHEN WE WERE DOWN THERE, WE SAID, WHAT ABOUT YOU BISHOPS?

WHAT IF YOU'RE ACCUSED, WHAT IF YOU OVERSEE AND COVER UP AND MOVE THE PREDATOR AROUND WHICH IS THE REAL SCANDAL?

THEY EXEMPTED THEMSELVES.

THIS IS A TICKING TIME BOMB.

HOW DID THEY GET AWAY WITH EXCEPTING THEMSELVES?

WAS ANYBODY PAYING ATTENTION, WAS THE VATICAN PAYING ATTENTION?

I WAS DOWN THERE.

I TALKED TO A BISHOP I KNOW WELL.

I SAID, LOOK, YOU'RE EXEMPTING YOURSELVES FROM THESE OVERSIGHT -- THIS ACCOUNTABILITY.

IT'S ACCOUNTABILITY.

AND HE SAID TO ME, I DON'T KNOW HOW YOU FIRE A BISHOP.

EACH BISHOP IS UNDER THEMSELVES ANSWERABLE ONLY TO THE POPE.

THE POPE BACK THEN, JOHN PAUL II, NOW A SAINT, AND HIS SUCCESSOR BENNEDICT XVI, WERE NOT INTO FIRING BISHOPS.

THIS NEW WAVE OF SCANDAL BEGAN BACK IN JUNE, AS WE KNOW, WHEN THE NEW YORK DIOCESE INTRODUCTION RELEASED THE CONCLUSIONS OF A REPORT THAT SAID THAT McCARRICK, SOMEBODY WE BOTH KNEW, HAD CREDIBLY ABUSED AN ALTAR BOY BACK IN THE EARLY '70s.

SINCE THEN IT HAS COME TO LIGHT THAT ALLEGEDLY HE ALSO ABUSED A BOY WHO HAPPENED TO BE THE FIRST BABY HE EVER BAPTIZED.

HORRIBLE.

AND THEN IT CAME TO LIGHT FOR YEARS HE HAD BEEN HARASSING MORE DEC SIMENARIANS.

HOW DOES SOMEONE LIKE THAT RISE UP IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

IT'S REALLY AN IRONIC TRIBUTE TO McCARRICK'S POLITICAL ABILITIES TO OPERATE WITHIN THE HIERARCHY, AND ALSO FUNDAMENTALLY HIS ABILITY TO RAISE MONEY UNDER THE PAPACY OF JOHN PAUL II IN THE 1990s AND THE EARLY 2000s.

HE FOUNDED THE PAPAL FOUNDATION, WHICH RAISED MILLIONS, TENS OF MILLIONS FOR THE VATICAN.

HE WAS ABLE TO BRING FUNDS OVER TO THE VATICAN.

MONEY TALKS OR TALKED OVER THERE.

REALLY?

YEAH.

IT WASN'T ABOUT SEX, IT WASN'T ABOUT SOME GAY KABAL COVERING UP FOR EACH OTHER. IT WAS REALLY ABOUT THE INFLUENCE OF MONEY AND HE WAS ABLE TO STAY IN --

AND THEY WERE WILLING TO VEER THEIR EYES FROM --

HE RAISED A LOT OF MONEY FOR POLAND, WHICH NEEDED -- THE POLISH CHURCH AT THE TIME.

HE HAD POWERFUL FRIENDS.

THERE WERE RUMORS ABOUT McCARRICK, BUT THERE WAS NOTHING -- NOBODY, YOU KNOW, THERE WERE NO SETTLEMENTS AT THE TIME, NO VICTIMS CAME FORWARD PUBLICLY.

SO HIS FRIENDS COULD HAVE PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY AND SAY WE DON'T HAVE ANYTHING FIRM.

THEY CLOSED THEIR EYES TO IT WHICH IS WHAT HAPPENED SO OFTEN.

SO HE WAS ABLE TO WORK THE SYSTEM, GOT APPOINTED FROM ARCHBISHOP OP OF NEWARK, NEW JERSEY, WHERE WE KNEW HIM, DOWN TO CARDINAL ARCHBISHOP OP OF WASHINGTON, D.C. --

MOST POWERFUL POSITIONS IN THE COUNTRY.

FORMER AMERICAN ANUNCIO, IN AUGUST WROTE THIS LETTER SAYING HE PERSONALLY INFORMED POPE FRANCIS THAT BENNEDICT XVI HAD SIDELINED McCARRICK BECAUSE OF HIS ACTIVITIES, THE THINGS THAT HE HAD BEEN DOING.

AND THEN VIGANO SAID, NEVERTHELESS, POPE FRANCIS NOT ONLY BROUGHT HIM BACK INTO THE FOLD, BUT MADE HIM MORE POWERFUL, ACCEPTING HIS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CARDINALS IN THE UNITED STATES.

NOW, A LOT OF THE POPE'S ALLIES HAVE PERSONALLY ATTACKED VIGANO.

SO FAR, I HAVEN'T SEEN THEM CONTRADICT HIS CLAIMS, AND IN FACT, INDIRECTLY, THEY HAVE CONFIRMED THEM.

SO IF IT'S TRUE, WHY DID THE POPE DO THIS WITH McCARRICK?

AND IF IT'S NOT TRUE, WHY DOESN'T THE POPE COME OUT AND PROVE HE DID NOT DO THIS?

IT'S DIFFICULT.

I THINK THE POPE DOESN'T WANT TO GET DOWN INTO THE MUD WITH A GUY LIKE McCARRICK -- A GUY LIKE VIGANO WHO HAS A PROBLEMATIC PAST.

HE COVERED UP FOR BISHOPS IN THE UNITED STATES.

HE'S A CONSERVATIVE CULTURE WARRIOR.

THE POPE HAD TO FIRE HIM EVENTUALLY.

HE SET UP THE CONTROVERSIAL MEETING WITH KIM DAVIS.

ALL THAT ASIDE, THIS YOU HEAR OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

BUT THE CLAIMS, THE CLAIMS ARE NOT CONTRADICTED.

WELL, I THINK -- IT'S A COMPLICATED THING.

I DON'T THINK THE POSSIBLE REHABILITATED McCARRICK IN ANY WAY.

ACTUALLY, AN ARTICLE YOU WROTE IN 2014 IS OFTEN CITED TO SHOW THAT HE DID, RIGHT?

McCARRICK, BECAUSE IT'S A COMPLICATED THING.

McCARRICK, HE WAS RETIRED AT THE TIME AND HE WAS KIND OF A GLOBAL DIPLOMAT FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE IN WASHINGTON, FOR CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES.

SO UNDER FRANCIS WHO WAS MUCH MORE INTERESTED IN GLOBAL DIPLOMACY, HE WOULD CHECK IN WITH THE VATICAN AND THE VATICAN WOULD SAY, SURE, GO TO CHINA, HELP NEGOTIATE A HOSTAGE RELEASE IN IRAN, THINGS LIKE THAT.

McCARRICK HAD A GREAT INTERNATIONAL PROFILE.

SO HE DID HAVE A RENEWED KIND OF VISIBILITY.

BUT HOW MUCH FRANCIS KNEW ABOUT HIM AND ACTUALLY WHAT BENNEDICT SAID, BENNEDICT'S OWN PEOPLE -- POPE BENNEDICT'S PEOPLE SAID WE DIDN'T ISSUE ANY SANCTION.

THEY SIDELINED HIM.

BUT THE FACT THAT A GUY LIKE McCARRICK COULD CONTINUE TO OPERATE UNTIL -- AND AGAIN, THIS IS KEY -- UNTIL THE ACCUSATION THAT McCARRICK HAD ABUSED A MINOR CAME OUT.

AND THEN POPE FRANCIS ACTED, STRIPPED HIM OF HIS CARDINAL'S HAT.

IT WAS ALL THE ALLEGATIONS ABOUT HIS ACTIVITY, ABUSE -- ABUSE OF SEMINARIANS THAT WENT UNADDRESSED.

WE'RE OUT OF TIME.

LET ME GET TO THE SECOND SHOE TO DROP ON McCARRICK, WAS THE REPORT OF THE PENNSYLVANIA ATTORNEY GENERAL WHICH WAS DEVASTATING, YOU KNOW.

THOUSANDS OF CHILDREN WERE ABUSED BY HUNDREDS OF PRIESTS OVER DECADES, AND NOW MORE THAN A DOZEN STATES ARE BEGINNING TO OPEN INVESTIGATIONS AND THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE IN WASHINGTON LOOKS LIKE IT'S GOING TO OPEN A NATIONWIDE INVESTIGATION.

IF ALL THIS HAPPENS, WHAT WILL BE THE EFFECT?

THEY COULD BE, AGAIN, DEVASTATING.

AT THIS POINT PEOPLE BELIEVE -- THE RESERVOIR OF CREDIBILITY FOR THE BISHOPS IS SO LOW THAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BELIEVE THE WORST, WHATEVER COMES OUT.

THE PENNSYLVANIA GRAND JURY REPORT, THIS IS LIKE A PERFECT STORM.

WE HAD THE McCARRICK EPISODE WHICH WE SPOKE ABOUT.

YOU HAVE THE VIGANO LETTER THAT RAISES INTRIGUE IN THE VATICAN WHO KNEW WHAT WAY UP THE LADDER.

AND THE GRAND JURY REPORT DETAILING STUFFER THAT HAPPENED DECADES AGO, BUT FOR AMERICAN CATHOLICS IT SEEMS LIKE THIS IS A NIGHTMARE THAT NEVER I UNDERSTAND.

SO, THIS IS PENNSYLVANIA.

WHAT IF YOU GET AN ATTORNEY GENERAL IN MASSACHUSETTS AND NEW JERSEY AND MICHIGAN AND NEW YORK --

13 STATES.

DOING THIS KIND OF THING COMING OUT.

IT'S GOING TO BE A DRIP, DRIP, DRIP KIND OF 1KSCANDAL.

THAT'S WHY POPE FRANCIS, HE DIDN'T CREATE THE SCANDAL BUT HE'S THE POPE AND HE'S THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN FINALLY ADDRESS IT.

ALL RIGHT, DAVID, IT'S A BIG TOPIC, A LOT OF STUFF WE DIDN'T GET TO TOUCH.

WE'LL HAVE YOU BACK TO CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION.

THANKS SO MUCH.

THANK YOU.

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