Which bishops have made the worst decisions about abusive priests?
"The very solid and good work that has been accomplished by the majority of bishops in their dioceses has been completely overshadowed by the imprudent decisions of a number of bishops during the past ten years," said Bishop Wilton Gregory, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops during their historic meeting in Dallas earlier this month. As the Catholic church continues to grapple with clergy sexual abuse of minors, and as lawsuits continue to mount, many eyes are on church leaders who at best made bad decisions and at worst are alleged to have systematically covered up for abusive priests.
Just who are these problem bishops? While many cases of diocesan mishandling or coverup are ambiguous, others are not--and certain bishops stand out. Below are summaries of the actions and inactions of several top contenders. Several of the cases include abuse which occurred after 1992, when the U.S. Catholic bishops' first sexual abuse policy was adopted.
The list was compiled from public documents, newspaper reports and interviews with victims' groups, lawyers, and leading Catholic thinkers. The criteria: which bishops failed to punish--or actively protected--priests credibly accused of sexual abuse?
CARDINAL BERNARD LAW, Boston
BISHOP THOMAS J. O'BRIEN, Phoenix
BISHOP CHARLES GRAHMANN, Dallas
BISHOP WILLIAM MURPHY, Rockville Centre, NY
BISHOP JOHN B. MCCORMACK, Manchester, NH
BISHOP MANUEL D. MORENO, Tucson, AZ
CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, Los Angeles
ARCHBISHOP ELDEN CURTISS, Omaha
BISHOP GERALD GETTELFINGER, Evansville, IN
Plus: The Good Bishops
The following bishops have been commended widely for their handling of church sex abuse cases:
Bishop John F. Kinney, St. Cloud, MN
Bishop Wilton Gregory, Belleville, IL
Bishop Donald Wuerl, Pittsburgh
Compiled by Laura Sheahen with Rebecca Phillips and Deborah Caldwell. Beliefnet relied heavily on reporting by several newspapers that have devoted considerable resources to covering the behavior of their bishops. Links to the best newspaper coverage can be found at the Poynter Institute's 'Clergy Abuse Tracker.'