WHAT DO WE MEAN BY “ACCOUNTABILITY”?
It is a matter of public record that U.S. bishops have knowingly transferred thousands of abusive priests into unsuspecting parishes and dioceses, placing fear of “scandal” ahead of the welfare of children. The bishops themselves have apologized for what they call their “mistake,” but they say nothing about the crucial actions that constitute accountability.
For true “bishop accountability” to occur, two things must happen: 1) there must be a full “account” of the bishops’ responsibility for the sexual abuse crisis, both individually and collectively, and 2) bishops who have caused the abuse of children and vulnerable adults must be “held accountable.”
1) How will a full account be given? The “account” of the bishops’ responsibility for the crisis has so far come through the witness of survivors, through documents unearthed by law enforcement and the legal system, through depositions taken by lawyers, and through media reports. BishopAccountability.org is dedicated to consolidating and preserving that record.
The “account” has not come from the bishops. Indeed, during this 60-year crisis they have made every effort to conceal the truth from parishioners, from victims with whom they negotiated settlements, and sometimes even from each other. In their new era of embarrassed transparency, many of them are fighting the publication of accused priests’ names, and even the production of legally subpoenaed files. In our view, all diocesan and conference files relating to the crisis should be made public, so that a full accounting may begin. Every day that the bishops delay, their “moral authority” weakens further, and the damage that they have done to the Catholic church increases.
“Studies” by their own hand-picked boards, working with whatever data the bishops themselves choose to relinquish, is not a full accounting.
2) Who will hold the bishops accountable? Bishops serve at the Pope’s pleasure, and he will accept the resignation of any bishop who is credibly and publicly accused of abuse (Weakland of Milwaukee WI and O’Connell of Palm Beach FL), who is indicted or arrested (O’Brien of Phoenix AZ), or who is a liability because his people and especially his priests no longer want him (Law of Boston MA).
It is our hope that the information we are collecting at BishopAccountability.org will help expose bishops who have abused children or vulnerable adults, or have aided abusers. We hope we can encourage an informed public to demand indictments of bishops where appropriate. And failing these legal remedies, we hope that our Web site will embolden priests and laity to beg the removal of culpable bishops by the Pope.
BishopAccountability.org aims to facilitate the accountability of the U.S. bishops under civil, criminal, and canon law. We document the debates about root causes and remedies, because important information has surfaced during those debates. We take no position on the root causes, and we do not advocate particular remedies. If the facts are fully known, the causes and remedies will become clear.
OUR METHOD AND INDEPENDENCE
A.W. Richard Sipe has said that “secrecy and accountability cannot coexist.” In order to hold the bishops accountable for bringing abusers into the priesthood and for transferring known abusers into unsuspecting parishes, we need a comprehensive archive of the evidence. That evidence is vast but scattered. It is our goal to assemble on the Internet a collection of every publicly available document and report on the crisis. Already we have posted the huge archive collected by the New Hampshire attorney general, and we will soon post the investigative and diocesan files that have been released in other cities.
Our standards of inclusion are broad. We offer documents representing every conceivable perspective on the crisis, and we intend to include every relevant diocesan and Vatican document. We endorse no particular analysis of the root causes of the crisis, and we advocate no particular remedies. BishopAccountability.org makes no claim regarding the accuracy of any document we post, and we have tried to include the full range of viewpoints, so as to provide a fully documented landscape of the crisis. We post documents in their entirety, and we do not edit the content in any way. Please email us with advice for adding documents we have missed.
Wherever possible, we offer links to documents, but we also cache the documents on our own server, so that once assembled, these resources cannot be dispersed. The Internet is a valuable resource, but what it giveth it taketh away. Studies have shown what we all have experienced: links become broken quickly, and important documents vanish every day from the Internet. BishopAccountability.org was created so that the entropy of the Internet cannot reinforce the secrecy of the bishops.
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