“The Better Church Governance Group,” an organization that includes six former U.S. cardinals on its Board of Trustees and is funded by a number of wealthy Catholics, announced last night that it would spend more than a million dollars over the next year to investigate every current member of the College of Cardinals — the people who elect popes — in an effort to shine a light on anyone credibly accused of child sexual abuse or covering up that abuse.
The goal is to produce a comprehensive report by April of 2020, presumably while Pope Francis is still in office and before his successor is chosen.
Christopher White of Crux explains:
The Red Hat Report, dubbed as the group’s “flagship project,” is designed to audit all 124 current papal electors. Organizers say it will be conducted by a team of, to date, nearly 100 researchers, academics, investigators, and journalists, with the aim “to hold the hierarchy of the Catholic Church accountable for abuse and corruption, and to develop and support honesty, clarity, and fidelity in Church governance.”
“Cardinals need to be held accountable publicly, so there has to be some sort of culture of shame,” [Better Church Governance’s Operations Director Jacob Imam] said. “They know if they vote for this person… the people that they shepherd, and their pastors, will know about it.”
Imam also said that 10 former FBI agents are involved in the investigation, with two individuals being the agency’s former lead investigators on ecclesiastic matters.
The ratings for each cardinal will run from “Strong Evidence of Abuse/Corruption” to “Some Evidence” to “Positive Evidence Against Abuse/Corruption.” Imam suggested that if such a report had been produced before the previous conclave, the cardinals may have chosen someone as pope who was more proactive in protecting children against abusive priests, unlike Pope Francis, who has been incredibly slow to act despite his rhetoric.
If they have more resources, Imam said the group hopes to run a similar investigation of all the Church’s bishops, too. But for now, give the revelations of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, it’s clear there was a wide-scale cover-up that many current Church leaders were involved in. While nearly a dozen state attorneys general have announced similar investigations, this project would investigate one of the highest tiers of Church leadership across the world. It’s frightening to think of what they might uncover.
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