Friday, February 18, 2005

I Thought The Catholic Church Was Hierarchical

But you wouldn't know it from this article about the continuing pedophile priest crisis. Part of the article indicates a serious effort to fix the problem:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The nation's Roman Catholic bishops said Friday that over the last year they received 1,092 new allegations of sexual abuse against at least 756 Catholic priests and deacons.

Half of the accused priests over the past year had been previously accused of abuse, said Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection.

Most of the alleged incidents occurred decades ago: 72 percent of the priests were either dead, defrocked or removed from public ministry before the newest allegations were received, McChesney said.

The information came as the bishops released a new national audit of U.S. dioceses to determine how well they've complied with the child protection policy American prelates instituted nearly three years ago at the height of the clergy molestation crisis. Teams of auditors, comprised mainly of former FBI agents, compiled data in visits to dioceses across the country.

The auditors found that more than 95 percent of dioceses have taken the required steps to keep children safe.
The next sentence, however, makes me wonder what's going on. Okay, the dioceses that are "out of compliance" may simply not have completed their plan for out to prevent this in the future, but what's with Lincoln, Nebraska?
Seven dioceses and Eastern rite territories were out of compliance and one diocese, Lincoln, Neb., refused to participate.
One of the big differences between most Protestant churches and the Catholic Church has been the style of governance. Most American Protestant churches have a relatively democratic structure to them. At least in theory, and often in practice, power comes from the members of the church, who delegate operational authority to a board of elders or deacons, who in turn hire the pastor. The Catholic Church's structure is theoretically from the top down. So how does the diocese in Lincoln, Nebraska, get away with refusing to participate? Isn't that rather like an army private refusing to follow orders?

UPDATE: A reader tells me:
A Bishop's immediate superior is the Pope, not the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

They have no more authority over the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, than the National Governors Association has over tthe Governor of Nebraska.

Thus, the formal answer to your question is "It's like an army private refusing to follow orders--from a committee of other privates."

The USCCB didn't even exist until the sixties, after Vatican II. Rome discouraged, or actually forbade, such national conferences, for the same reason the Army doesn't encourage its privates to form Committees of Correspondence.

A quick look at the record of the Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska suggests that he's an old-fashioned holy terror, of the 1950's model, and if he's not cooperating with the USCCB, it's probably because he insists on setting his own house in order, rather than because he's hiding something.

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