Synod English groups: Abuse crisis undermines church ‘in practically every way’

by Joshua J. McElwee

In the first of three reports expected from the working groups during the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops, one of the English groups said bluntly that in the gathering’s expected final document clergy abuse “cannot be skimmed over tangentially in a few short sentences.”

Naming some of the effects of abuse — “shattered trust, the trauma and lifelong suffering of survivors; the catastrophic failures in case management; the continued silence and denial” — the group added: “these issues cry out to be named openly by the Synod.”

“If priests themselves are afraid to minister among the youth, then how can our Synod get out the message that young people, their faith and their vocational discernment are important to us?” asked that group, which is being led by Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias.

“As one member of our Group reminded us: ‘Trust arrives slowly, on foot, but Trust leaves on horseback!’ ” the report said. ” ‘Trust must be rebuilt, one person at a time.’ ”

The 267 prelates and the 72 auditors taking part in the Synod of Bishops have been meeting in 14 groups divided by working language for the past few days to reflect on the first part of the gathering’s three-part working document, known as the Instrumentum Laboris.

The Vatican released the groups’ written reports Oct. 9, and has provided the names of the groups’ leaders and secretaries. In a break from previous synods, the Vatican has not released a list of the full membership of the groups.

The secretary of Gracias’ group is Irish Archbishop Eamon Martin. According to a list of the working groups’ members obtained by NCR, others in that group include British Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Australian Archbishop Anthony Fisher, and Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The second of the English groups to address the abuse crisis is led by Galveston-Houston Cardinal Daniel DiNardo. That group said the scandal “has undermined the work of the Church in practically every way, precisely because it has compromised our credibility.”

“A Church that cannot be trusted is simply incapable of reaching out to young people in an effective way,” it said.

The secretary of DiNardo’s group is Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron. Its members include South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Maltese Archbishop Charles Scicluna, Philippines Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.