Shared from the 10/21/2018 San Antonio Express eEdition


Other dioceses should form independent panels


Thomas M. Mengler is president of St. Mary’s University.

This year and next, I have the privilege to serve as chairman of the board of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities — the voice of Catholic higher education in the United States. In this role, I have participated in conversations with other Catholic university presidents about the church’s clergy abuse crisis.

In late August, ACCU issued a public statement, standing in solidarity with and in sadness and prayer for the countless victims who have suffered atrocities committed by clergy against society’s most vulnerable: boys and girls entrusted to their pastoral care. ACCU has also focused on our duties as Catholic university presidents to exercise strong leadership on both our campuses and within our dioceses.

In his 1990 apostolic constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. John Paul II identified the significant role Catholic universities should play in the church, emphasizing the importance of “close personal and pastoral relationships … between university and church authorities.” Indeed, Ex Corde Ecclesiae is Latin for “born from the heart of the church.” In that vein, during my years as president of St. Mary’s University, we have established a close partnership with the archdiocese, in loving service to the men and women, boys and girls, of San Antonio.

Catholic university presidents recognize that our own campuses, too, require vigilance in ensuring that the young adults who enroll at our universities and the boys and girls who attend our summer camps and youth programs are safe and secure. The ACCU has urged all leaders in Catholic higher education to advance the following actions on our campuses:

•Ensure Safety. Revisit our university policies and enact the necessary changes, if any, to better ensure that all students are sexually, physically and morally safe.

•Be Clear. Ensure that all employees understand what actions they should take if they witness or have evidence of abusive sexual activity.

•Protect. Be sure that all new employees undergo background checks as part of the hiring process.

•Take the Lead. Revisit all programs in which youths are involved on campus. Make certain that our institutional procedures have appropriate safeguards for the youths entrusted to our care.

But Catholic universities have responsibilities that extend well beyond our walls into the communities in which we serve. In Ex Corde Ecclesiae, John Paul spelled out a Catholic university’s special role to “consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth.”

One uncomfortable truth is that Catholic clergy who engaged in sexual abuse and those bishops and cardinals who facilitated cover-ups have been unfaithful to their vows, to their obligations to care for and nurture the Body of Christ, and to Christ’s message to respect the dignity of each person.

Another uncomfortable truth is that the bond of mutual trust between Church authorities and faithful laity has been severely damaged — if not, in some dioceses, entirely severed — by recent revelations.

A third uncomfortable truth consequently is that this betrayal of trust by certain corrupt bishops has tainted the credibility of all bishops.

For these reasons, AC-CU has called on Catholic university presidents to undertake one more action:

•Be Bold. Meet with your local bishop and advocate for an independent lay commission on clergy abuse of minors.

On Sept. 11, I began such a conversation with San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller. Our discussion quickly led to agreement to establish an independent commission — made entirely of lay Catholics and non-Catholics — to audit the cases, practices and policies on clergy abuse of minors in the archdiocese going back to the 1940s. The commission will function independently — that is, independent of supervision or direction by the archdiocese.

García-Siller’s announcement Oct. 10 of the formation of a lay commission followed an earlier announcement that day by the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. The TCCB announced that by Jan. 31, the bishops of all 15 Catholic dioceses in Texas will release “names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor, going back at least to 1950.”

TCCB’s announcement is a positive step, but inadequate. I would encourage the TCCB to require the other 14 bishops to follow García-Siller’s lead and establish an independent lay commission before the Jan. 31 release of names.

See this article in the e-Edition Here
Edit Privacy