"Some bishops are not serious about keeping our children safe. They've used the Review Board to save their hides, and you can be sure that the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is anything but over," said Linda Pieczynski, spokesperson for Call To Action.
Call To Action's response has come in the light of the active lobbying of some U.S. bishops to undermine the National Review Board's work and limit its authority. Over thirty bishops around the country sent letters to Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asking to delay a vote approving the annual audits of U.S. dioceses until November. If their request were granted, a 2004 audit of dioceses, which was stipulated by the 2002 Dallas Charter, would be blocked.
"This is deplorable," said Lena Woltering, board member and former chapter leader of Call To Action. "They're trying to undercut the Board even at this early stage of the game. If the bishops had their way, they would water down the quality and autonomy of the Board until it becomes a rubber stamp. It is imperative that Catholics know what these guys are trying to do."
Cardinal Edward Egan of New York City, Bishop John Myers of Newark, Archbishop Justin Rigali of Philadelphia and Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska have pushed hard to delay the vote, circulating sign-on petitions to be sent to Gregory. In a letter to Gregory, Egan wrote, "We write to report that [we] are not in favor of extending these efforts until [our] general meeting in November."
This small but vocal group has also tried to intimidate the Board. The Board's Chair, Justice Anne Burke, recently sent a letter to Bishop Gregory expressing her concern about the bishops' sluggish response to the Board's recommendations. She has since received chastisements from opposing bishops, who are questioning her motives. Archbishop Chaput of Denver wrote to her, "We were embarrassed by the tone of your letter [to Bishop Gregory]. Your language is designed to offend and...invites resistance."
Pieczynski said, "Although only a small segment of the hierarchy is involved in these lowball tactics, the fact that they're tolerated and even considered illustrates that the USCCB's priorities really haven't changed. It's insulting to all the hard work of the Board and a slap in the face to victims and Catholics nationwide. The bishops should take every measure to support the work of the Board, not to undermine or intimidate it."
Call To Action is lobbying for all U.S, bishops to approve the annual audits of all U.S. dioceses for their compliance with the 2003 Charter for Protection of Children and Young People when the bishops convene in June. "If the bishops do not approve the audit this summer, time constraints will assure no 2004 audit will be possible," said Woltering. "It's a real litmus test on how seriously these bishops have taken the entire sex abuse scandal, and an indicator on where the Church is heading."
Call To Action is a national organization of 25,000 laity, religious, priests and bishops with 40 local chapters. It advocates for reforms in the Catholic Church such as the ordination of women, optional celibacy for priests, more focus on the Church's social justice teaching, Church financial accountability, and consultation with the Catholic people on church decision-making and sexuality issues.