Cardinal Levada’s Two Step on Priest Abuse

When Cardinal Levada met with journalists in the Time building in New York this past Friday and was reported to have said that the church is considering making it easier for survivors of priest abuse to come forward, there was the feeling that possibly the Catholic Church was about to change.
Now, Reuters is reporting that Levada, Benedict’s successor as chief official in charge of dealing with priests who abuse, is saying he didn’t say that change in church law was imminent. He went further to say that he didn’t believe bishops had aided and abetted molesting priests. This is the same Levada who as archbishop of San Francisco, had the chairman of a panel formed to help the archdiocese review abuse claims resign in protest, accusing church leaders of “deception” for blocking the panel’s findings. Now, he’s defending bishops like Cardinal Law who resigned in disgrace after church documents revealed the extent of his involvement in the church sex abuse coverup.
This is a very disturbing development in light of the Pope’s comments and actions this week. The Pope himself had chastised the American bishops when he told them that the abuse scandal had not been handled well. Now, the Pope has one of his top lieutenants in Levada, siding with bishops who have been exposed as hiding and covering up for abusive priests.
Fr. Tom Doyle, a Dominican priest and canon law expert, reacted to Levada’s comments by stating that he personally remembers briefing then Auxiliary Bishop Levada in 1985 about the priest abuse crisis. Doyle states that Levada is either lying or has such a restrictively narrow view of reality that allows him to deny the bishops’ knowlege of the extent of the priest abuse crisis. Doyle, an expert in the abuse crisis, has reviewed thousands of documents dating back to the 1940’s that show the bishops knew about abusive priests and hid them or transferred them to other parishes where they were free to abuse again. Doyle sees Levada’s comments as more of the “pass the buck” mentality that Benedict condemned and has permeated the bishops’ actions in mishandling the abuse issue.
The real problem is the lack of accountability of the US bishops, none of whom have been successfully charged criminally for their actions in this regard. The Pope must continue to hold the bishops accountable if he is going to have any credibility with survivors of sexual abuse as well as the Catholic faithful who look to him for straight talk and pastoral leadership.