U.S. Catholic Bishops Announce Plan to Address Sexual Abuse
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced on Wednesday it is taking proactive steps to curb sexual abuse perpetrated by priests.
Sex abuse scandals rocked the Catholic Church in recent months after reports detailing decades of abuse and coverups were released in Germany, the U.S., Netherlands and Chile. Pope Francis is reportedly considering dramatic measures to address the crisis, but the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference announced their own initiatives to address sexual abuse within the Church.
The conference of bishops agreed that they can no longer fold their arms and watch top leaders of the clergy fail in their responsibilities and bring disrepute to the Church. The bishops began the process of amends by apologizing profusely for the errors of the clergy and owned up to the church leadership’s failures to act responsibly.
They resolved that abusive and negligent bishops will now be fully accountable for their deeds, and may even face prosecution from civil authorities.
Catholic Church Acknowledges Abuse, Charts New Path Forward
The administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agreed that the actions or inactions of many bishops “have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole.” They condemned the sexual abuse perpetrated by bishops and every clergy member who failed to deal with abusive priests and instead transferred them to other parishes where they continued to harm.
The U.S. Catholic bishops made their announcement after meeting with Pope Francis in Rome just a week ago. The President of the bishops’ conference, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, said the meeting with the pope was lengthy and stimulating to the issues at hand.
The initiatives announced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops do not need the approval of the pope. On Wednesday, they announced the new initiatives:
- A third-party reporting system will be established to aid the discreet reporting of abusive bishops and priests, while accused clergymen will be handed over to civil authorities and appropriate church authorities for investigations.
- A committee within the conference of bishops will develop proposals for policies “addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.
- A code of conduct will be developed to address sexual abuse, sexual harassment or misconduct with an adult.
- An agreement was made to support a full law enforcement investigation into Archbishop Theodore McCarrick’s alleged sex abuses.
“This is only a beginning. Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts, and other laity along with clergy and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice,” the bishops said in their statement.