Maryland holds a unique place in the history of Catholicism in the United States, starting with Catholic colonists who settled there and the Maryland Act of Toleration. This is why I had one of my main characters move to Maryland. Of course, the USCCB headquarters are just down the road from Baltimore in Washington, DC, but I think it's really interesting and potentially symbolic that they held the conference in a city and state that played such a fundamental role in the history of American Catholicism. In choosing to have the USCCB play a prominent role in the plot of my novel, I wanted to highlight two issues. One, that the ethical transgressions of the Church aren't limited to Boston or New York or Pennsylvania. It's touched communities all over the U.S. and the world. And two, that the proximity of the USCCB to the corridors of power in Washington and its coordinated efforts to influence legislation and politics (some of which I agree with and others that I don't) can blur the line between acting in the interests of social justice versus making a power grab for personal benefit.
I'm still waiting to see what the actionable outcomes will be from the various summits the Church has been holding on this issue, including the one held by the USCCB in Baltimore. It was disappointing that they opened the assembly by saying that at the Vatican's insistence, they would not be voting on what steps to take to address the abuse crisis. Dialogue and discussion is important, but action and follow-through is even more important. When I was doing research to write The Shepherd's Calculus, what struck me most was how many times the issue of abuse had sprung up over the years - news articles in 1995 describing isolated incidences, the 2003 Spotlight exposé, and now fifteen years later, a shocking grand jury report. Despite all these revelations, the abuses and cover-ups continued. The Church has a moral obligation to take action so this doesn't happen again and we, as the community it was created to serve, can and should hold it accountable to do so.