As the Second Sunday of Advent 2013 approaches, the Archbishop of the Metro asks that Catholics now begin to trust him again. He perceives that since courts have ordered him to release the names of priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, he can now be trusted to do the right thing when dealing with abusers in the future.
Since when does losing a lawsuit imply innocence or build trust? How does that mean that a person or institution that acts in an immoral manner can now be trusted? The mere fact that it took – no takes – a lawsuit to force the Archbishop’s compliance means that he cannot be trusted to do the right thing on his own.
Clearly, that trust will take a very long time to be regained. There is so much more that must happen in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis before the Archbishop can regain any sort of trust.
Employees of the Archdiocese including the Archbishop, who were or are responsible for the priestly sexual abuse cover-up, must answer to the law. They must answer to the law of the land and they must answer to the law of the Church. They must be held accountable.
The Archbishop, who is ultimately responsible for the behaviors of the Archdiocese, must personally apologize to each known victim. Moreover, he must reach out to others who have not come out and apologize to them as well.
The Archbishop must also personally apologize to the people of God. All Catholics – indeed all peoples – have been deceived by Catholic bishops who have institutionalized the cover-up of sexual abuse. Yes, we have all been deceived by Catholic bishops who have in effect said “Do as we say, not as we do.” and who have lost all of their moral authority.
Indeed, it will take a long time to regain trust. It will not be a freebie. There will be a price to be paid.
Archbishop Nienstadt is being asked by many to step down. That is precisely what he should do.
Our own Bishop of Winona, too, needs to realize that trust will not come easily – for the very same reasons.
Yes, these two men need to come out of their silos. They need to communicate with their flocks personally and directly – not through diocesan newspapers or other forms of public media. And they need to openly and directly confess their roles in this institutional sin.
These men do not smell of sheep. They smell of blood.
Our children have been their sacrificial lambs long enough.