BALTIMORE—The following is a reflection from Bishop Frank Caggiano on the November 2018 meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
As the meeting of bishops continues here in Baltimore, much is being discussed about the change of direction the Holy See has asked regarding the proposed action items designed to address the issue of bishops’ accountability. I recognize the deep frustration that so many people feel about this delay, and I can’t imagine the hurt that survivors of abuse may be feeling as they try to make sense of why this has happened. However, in times when such unexpected events happen, I always seek to discern what the Lord may be asking, often in hidden ways. In this case, I believe that the Lord is inviting us, as bishops, to face a crucial underlying issue that the action items, as important as they are, cannot address alone.
More specifically, while a code of conduct, a lay commission, and a third part reporting system will be important tools to keep bishops accountable in their leadership, what is equally and fundamentally necessary for true reform is the need for personal conversion in the life of every bishop and leader in our Church. It is a conversion that understands, accepts and lives a lifestyle of true servant leadership. As I reflect on my own ministry, I know that I make countless decisions each day that are an exercise of ecclesial “power”- decisions that must always be made in the heart and mind of Jesus. When a bishop or any leader makes decisions that are authentic in faith, the culture that is created protects, enhances and celebrates the people around him. In contrast, when those decisions are driven by a desire for ambition, comfort, or the desire to make one’s position felt over another, the culture that is created puts people in jeopardy, especially the most vulnerable in our midst. It is the culture that a bishop creates by his decisions and the attitude of his heart that must be converted to achieve real personal accountability. No policy or commission can do this for him.
Perhaps it was for this reason that the Pope asked all the bishops of the United States to enter into spiritual retreat in January? Perhaps we must first have the courage to face Jesus in contrition and humility, over a long period of time and with His grace, to dismantle whatever clericalism may exist in our midst, before we can make the decisions that were delayed this week?
I ask for your prayers for me and all my brother bishops. May we do whatever the Lord is asking of us, no matter how painful or unexpected it may be, to bring true accountability for ourselves and renewal to the Church.