I thought I had heard it all. I am dumbfounded at a statement by Bishop Skylstad, responding to complaints raised by some lay Catholics calling for his resignation in the wake of his diocesan bankruptcy. These lay Catholic businessmen demanded that the laity have a say in this matter. They gave the money, after all. They and their parents and grand parents built the churches and schools.
“The faithful who are risking their property and money should have the same rights as the recipients of the funds. Who can possibly argue with the fairness of this plan?” they asked.
The diocesan bankruptcy lawyer responded by ridiculing the notion that these laymen could have the effrontery to request that a bishop resign.
“I’m not Catholic, but it’s my understanding that only the pope can remove a bishop. It’s also my understanding that Mr. Herak is not the pope,” Cross said.
But that’s not what got them really mad. It was when the Bishop tried to blame the laity for the failures of the bishops:
After the bishop replied, Herak, Tilford, Caferro and Workland wrote again, taking exception to the bishop’s insistence that the Catholic community of today must atone for the actions of pedophile priests decades ago.
“We are the perpetrators of the abuse,” Skylstad wrote in his reply. “That ‘we’ is the perceived community of bishops, priests and laity, in communities over a 50-year period. You may not like being in that ‘we,’ but that is the way it is.”
The four calling for Skylstad’s resignation responded: “You are just wrong on that point. It could not be perceived by any rational person that any lay person could have perpetuated or condoned this long string of child abuse by a number of Spokane diocesan priests.
“Only a handful of the laity even knew this violation of both God and man’s law was even taking place. This sin of pedophilia became known to the bishops of Spokane many years ago, but they chose to take limited or no action or even worse covered it up.”
The only people who can be blamed are 1) the priests who acted, 2) the therapists and theologians who excused their actions in various ways, 3) the bishops who ignored complaints and lied and covered up and moved priests. The first group is only being punished now because of diligence by law enforcement–but unrealistic statue of limitations laws are preventing prosecution of many of the guilty. The second group seem to have emerged unharmed by the scandal. And of the third group, a couple of guilty bishops resigned long after frustrated lay people had tried through multiple channels to bring evidence to other bishops at various levels.
Bishop Gregory Aymond recently observed, “We can’t hold each other responsible. We are responsible to the pope.” I would interpret this to be an acknowledgment of the reality that each bishop is independent; he’s not accountable to his fellow bishops or to the USCCB. If he chooses to thumb his nose at them (as Bishop Bruskewitz continues to do in the matter of the “audits” in this matter), they can’t do anything. If he is immoral, they can’t do anything. If bishops are misbehaving, the Vatican alone can act. And how many times has it done so …?