By Dennis Sadowski – Catholic News Service
BALTIMORE – At the urging of the Vatican, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will not vote on two proposals on a response to the sexual abuse crisis that they were planning to discuss at their meeting in Baltimore.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, informed the bishops as they opened their general assembly Nov. 12 that the Vatican wanted the bishops to delay any vote until after a February meeting with the pope and presidents of the bishops’ conferences around the world. That meeting will focus on addressing clergy abuse.
Cardinal DiNardo said he was disappointed that no action would be taken during the assembly, but that he was hopeful that the delay “will improve our response to the crisis we face.”
Affected are proposed standards of episcopal conduct and the formation of a special commission for review of complaints against bishops for violations of the standards.
The cardinal’s announcement came two days after Pope Francis met with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, at the Vatican. Archbishop Pierre returned to the United States Nov. 11 in time for the first day of the U.S. bishops’ general fall assembly in Baltimore.
However, at a midday news conference, Cardinal DiNardo said the request to delay action came from the Congregation for Bishops.
The assembly planned to move forward with discussion of both proposals from the bishop’s Administrative Committee.
The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.
In response, Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago suggested the general assembly move forward with its discussion of the two proposals. He also called for a special assembly in March to weigh and vote on the measures after being informed by the outcome of the February meeting in Rome.
“It is clear that the Holy See is taking seriously the abuse crisis in the church,” Cardinal Cupich said, adding that the February meeting was a “watershed moment” in church history.
“We need to be clear where we stand and tell our people where we stand,” he said.
Later in the morning session, just before the assembly adjourned for a day of prayer and penitence, Cardinal DiNardo opened his presidential address pointing to the weakness within the church that has led to the clergy abuse crisis.
Bishop Curtis Guillory, S.V.D. is attending the USCCB meeting.