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By Stephen P. White, The Catholic Thing, April 15, 2021
Stephen P. White is executive director of The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America and a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
On September 14, 2018, Bishop Robert Morneau, a retired auxiliary bishop of Green Bay, Wisconsin, issued a short letter in which he admitted that, in 1979, he had failed to report a priest to local authorities for abusing a minor. While Bishop Morneau believed that his actions at the time were in accord with the wishes of the family of the abused, by Morneau’s own account, his failure to report the abuse allowed the offending priest to abuse again.
What made Bishop Morneau’s letter so remarkable was not just his admission of failure almost forty years after the fact, but what he proposed to do in light of that failure:
Because of this, I voluntarily request a withdrawal from all public ministry. I intend to spend my time in prayer for all victims and survivors of sexual abuse and I will do corporal works of mercy in reparation for what I failed to do. …