The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) kicked off its Spring General Assembly yesterday, with bishops from around the country gathering in Baltimore to discuss a wide range of issues. Calling in from Baltimore, Bishop Richard Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville was a guest on Morning Air® today and offered an overview of what topics will be discussed at the assembly this week.
After the McCarrick scandal of last summer and the scandal involving Bishop Bransfield just last week, many member of the laity are looking to the General Assembly to see what concrete steps will be taken to ensure there is accountability for bishops who are accused of sexual abuse and other corrupt behavior.
“The dominant conversation will be on bishops’ accountability, especially with what we have faced in West Virginia with Bishop Bransfield,” Bishop Stika said. “So there’s many different things. Some are very heavy in content, others are more joyful, like the progress of a particular person for sainthood.”
It was expected that the bishops would establish policies and procedures for bishop accountability during their General Assembly last November, but at the last minute the Vatican instructed the bishops to not vote on policies before the February abuse summit at the Vatican. Now that the summit is concluded and Pope Francis has released Vos Estis Lux Mundi, a document that outlines global standards for handling clergy abuse, it is expected that the USCCB will vote on adopting specific policies.
Bishop Stika told Morning Air hosts John Harper and Glen Lewerenz, “After the meeting in November, a lot of bishops were frustrated. You could understand why the Holy Father asked for the Conference to kind of slow down a bit, getting ready for the meeting in February. But it was also very disheartening, because this is a major issue in the Church, in the United States, and throughout the world.”
“You can look at concrete ways to approach this, but there’s also an emotional part of this, that you have to keep balanced,” he continued. “There are people in the pews who have just had enough, and they want to see some concrete actions. So hopefully the result of this meeting in Baltimore will result in that something concrete that we can go back and say, ‘Look, this is what we’ve done.'”
Asked whether these concrete actions will include involving the laity in reviewing investigations, Bishop Stika responded, “I’m all in favor of the laity being involved in some manner, in terms of bishops’ accountability. You know, it works on a local level in terms of diocesan boards. And so I think that with the various options we’re looking at I think it’s important to get that independent voice. That’s what I favor at least.”
Listen to the full conversation with Bishop Stika below, and tune-in to Relevant Radio® throughout the week for continuing coverage of the USCCB General Assembly.