Background: Bishop Bruskewtiz's history with the fallout from the sexual abuse scandal has been unique - he's refused to submit the Lincoln diocese to the processes and procedures mandated by the Review Board. In other words, Lincoln is "non-compliant."
In the latest audit, full document here, the Board rebuked Lincoln in these words:
In just three years, dioceses/eparchies have worked extremely hard to address the issue of clergy sexual abuse. This conclusion is strongly supported by the audit results.
It disheartens the Board, however, that the bishop of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and the eparch of the Eparchy of Newton for Melkite Catholics in Newton, Massachusetts, have refused to participate in the audit process, and the Board calls for strong fraternal correction in these refusals.
The Bishop has shot back, as reported by CWN News:
"Some woman named Patricia O'Donnell Ewers, who is the Chair of something called "A National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People", has said that her Board "calls for strong fraternal correction of the Diocese of Lincoln." The Diocese of Lincoln has nothing to be corrected for, since the Diocese of Lincoln is and has always been in full compliance with all laws of the Catholic Church and with all civil laws. Furthermore, Ewers and her Board have no authority in the Catholic Church and the Diocese of Lincoln does not recognize them as having any significance.
It is well known that some of the members of Ewers' Board are ardent advocates of partial birth abortion, other abortions, human cloning, and other moral errors. It is understandable then how such persons could dislike the Diocese of Lincoln, which upholds the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.
The words attributed to Ewers seem to confirm the suspicion that the members of her Board are unfamiliar with Catholic teachings, Catholic ecclesiology, and even the basic rudiments of the Catholic Catechism. Rather than concerning themselves with the Diocese of Lincoln about which they appear completely ignorant, Ewers and her colleagues would occupy themselves in a better way by learning something about the Catholic religion and the traditions and doctrines and laws of the Catholic Church.
The Diocese of Lincoln does not see any reason for the existence of Ewers and her organization.
The USCCB's Charter is not simply a list of good, or least not bad, suggestions. Whatever weaknesses there still are in the Charter--and surely there are some--the fact remains, it constitutes what canon law calls "particular law" (1983 CIC 455) for the United States. It was approved overwhelmingly in 2002 by the US bishops and then by Rome (specifically the Congregation for Bishops, albeit after extensive discussions); it was reissued in 2005. As "particular law", the Charter is binding on all the bishops in the US, not just on those who voted for it, and not just in regard to those parts with which a bishop agrees.
No one seriously thinks that the Diocese of Lincoln is trying to hide anything here. But Bp. Bruskewitz's statement goes beyond expressing refusal to implement the Charter (at least those several parts that are not already required by Nebraska law or the 1983 Code of Canon Law). It goes beyond refusing cooperation with the annual self-audit that was mandated by the Charter (the results of which occasioned O'Donnell Ewer's remarks). Bp. Bruskewitz is plainly rejecting the legitimacy of the USCCB Review Board itself and the policies it is mandated to coordinate. Regretfully, I don't see how else to put this: Bp. Bruskewitz is defying legislation that was legitimately passed by the episcopal conference and which received Rome's considered and express approval. And I think that's a problem.
This is one of those situations that reveals much. Bruskewitz points out what many out here in the world have been saying for years - that the composition of the National Review Board is quite problematic. It is one thing for professionals, who may or may not be Catholic, to do work that involves monitoring, accounting and some levels of evaluation, but the National Review Board is a group that, in a sense, speaks to the bishops about how the bishops should conduct themselves in the context of a particular ecclesiology, and it makes no sense for those who thumb their nose at that, by publicly dissenting from the teaching the bishops are sworn to uphold, to be in the role that they are.
And although this is not a point raised by the bishop, observers of this mess can't help but spit their coffee out at the Board's call for some fraternal correction against the Bishop of Lincoln. What about fraternal correction for the bishops who have, through their decision-making, taken their dioceses into bankruptcy, not to speak of the personal toll? What about fraternal correction for Bishops O'Connell, Weakland, Lynch and Ziemann?
It is also unclear, as some comments at Dom's question, exactly what the bishop is talking about here. The Charter? The Board's comments on the charter? Ed Peters seems to believe it is the former.
All of that said, the Bishop's tone was ridiculous and not helpful to his cause. I'm all for straight talk, but this "some woman" business is silly and dishonest, and iln the end, although some people think he made his point strongly, by affecting the tone of a 15-year old, the Bishop distracts listeners from the point I suppose he is trying to make.
Update: Many of the comments below completely miss the point. The point is not about offense or being PC. You might want to read the paragraphs before the last one, in which the problems with the Review Board are laid out. It's about how making a statement in which the Bishop mentions "some woman" and "something called" in relationship to people and groups he is very well aware is not going to help him make his case. It weakens, rather than strengthens the message because it does, and will, function as a distraction - as something else for people to focus on, rather than his critique.
Secondly, a commentor below makes an excellent point. The National Review Board did not establish itself or appoint its own members. Bishops did that. Ewers' ridiculous statement may have been the direct inspiration of Bishop Bruskewitz's statement, but the real targets are the bishops who have capitulated to the demands of insurance companies and lawyers (aka - if you don't institute these kinds of programs, you don't get insurance coverage, and we don't even think about paying on existing claims. Pure and simple, that's what it is.) Why doesn't he just come out and say so? Why not publicly rake them over the coals?