Brooklyn Bishop Takes the Time to Listen

National Catholic Reporter
May 16, 2003


Bishop Thomas Daily of Brooklyn, N.Y., provided a rare bright spot in the ongoing sex abuse crisis when he announced in an April 29 letter that he had lifted his ban on the use of church property for meetings of Voice of the Faithful.

Any bishop has the right within his diocese to decide who can speak, who can use church property and who can't. In this case, although he first presumed that Voice of the Faithful members would come to meetings loaded with other agenda items, he took the time to listen (See story).

He listened to his diocesan presbyteral council, which had recommended a relaxation of the ban and he listened to "a number of good and dedicated members of the diocese, who were members of VOTF" who "were truly desirous to prayerfully reflect on our present ecclesial concerns and collaborate in strengthening the unity of our church."

Some might consider a change of mind a sign of weakness. In this instance, it shows the best pastoral instincts at work and can only increase trust between Daily and people who care deeply about the church and who are interested in doing whatever they can to prevent another scandal.

Said Melissa Gradel, Voice of the Faithful regional coordinator for Brooklyn and Queens, "We are pleased that Bishop Daily has recognized that we are seeking only to assume the responsibilities that are ours as baptized Catholics, and especially gratified that he has acknowledged the need for new forms of collaboration in carrying out the mission of the church -- a mission that lay people, religious men and women, priests, deacons and bishops all share by virtue of our baptism."

If there is one defining concern that emanates from the sex abuse scandal and that crosses all the divisions in the church it is the concern about accountability. Catholics jarred by the depth of the scandal and the extent of mismanagement of personnel, money and talent now want to be part of the process. They no longer can trust that everything is being handled well by the bishop and his chancery staff. There is a clear need for processes, for clarity and for greater transparency across church operations.

Responsible Catholics also know that no matter how they feel about other issues, in making the case for transparency and in seeking a greater role in the life of the church, the discussion must be limited to the issue of accountability.

No bishop at this point is going to entertain discussion of women priests, or married priests, or changing the laws about birth control, or creating a more welcoming atmosphere for gays or any other number of issues that might occupy Catholic minds and discussions in other circumstances.

The question of accountability and greater lay collaboration in church processes can and should be taken up quite apart from other issues.

We applaud Bishop Daily for taking the time to listen and for considering the views of responsible Catholics in his diocese. We hope the discussions continue to be fruitful.


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