BALTIMORE— The directive not to vote on the proposals that had been expected to form the basis for the response of the Church in the United States to the sex-abuse crisis came from the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said Monday.
The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was speaking at the first news conference held at the bishops’ autumn meeting in Baltimore Nov. 12.
He indicated that the directive came not from Pope Francis, but directly from the Congregation for Bishops.
Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vermont, who spoke at the news conference, told CNA that he did not know whether the American members of the congregation played a role in the decision.
The American members of the Congregation for Bishops are Cardinals Blase Cupich of Chicago and Donald Wuerl, archbishop emeritus of Washington.
A source close to Cardinal Wuerl told CNA that he did not believe the cardinal had been involved in the decision.
Cardinal DiNardo had announced the decision earlier in the day to “a visibly surprised conference hall.”
Cardinal DiNardo said that the Holy See insisted that consideration of a “Code of Conduct” for bishops and a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct be delayed until the conclusion of a special meeting called by Pope Francis for February.
Bishop Coyne told CNA that the bishops would also suspend their vote on establishing a third-party reporting system for complaints about episcopal conduct.
The Congregation for Bishops asked for the delay so that bishops around the world can be “on the same page,” and learn from each other, the bishops said. The importance of further precision in canon law was also raised.
Joining Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Coyne at the news conference was Bishop Timothy Doherty of Lafayette, Indiana.
Cardinal Dinardo said he found Rome’s decision to be “quizzical” and suspected the Congregation for Bishops thought the U.S. bishops might be moving too quickly.
“I’m wondering if they could turn the synodality back on us. My first reaction was: This didn’t seem so synodical; but maybe the Americans weren’t acting so synodically either. But it was quizzical to me when I saw it.”
Cardinal DiNardo said the bishops have not lessened their resolve for action and that they are not pleased by the Holy See’s decision. He indicated that they will continue to push for action on the sex-abuse crisis: “We’re disappointed because we’re moving along on this.”
Speaking to how Catholics can trust their leaders, he asked that they retain faith in the bishops’ commitment to reform, watching their efforts. He acknowledged that people have a right to scepticism, but also to hope.
The cardinal said he had proposed an apostolic visitation to deal with the problem, but that Rome had disagreed with that approach.
While acknowledging their disappointment in the decision from Rome, the bishops also spoke of the importance of their own obedience. Cardinal DiNardo said they were responsible to be attentive to the Holy Father and his congregations, and Bishop Coyne said bishops are by nature collegial, “so when the Holy See asks us to work in collegiality, that’s what we do.”