More on the bishops’ program for finding and reporting abuse

Bishops mean business.

  • Approval of the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will receive confidentially, by phone and online, complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop and will direct those complaints to the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.
  • Instructions to the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to 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.
  • Initiation of the process of developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding the sexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with an adult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.
  • Support for a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, including his alleged assaults on minors, priests, and seminarians, as well any responses made to those allegations. Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.

“Only a beginning,” they say. Consultation with laity, a “sine qua non” of investigation, will be part of it all. Nothing new there, in terms of promised strategy. But the bishops also acknowledge “a general corrosion of moral culture within the ranks of the Church’s clerical and hierarchical leadership,” which is clear enough to the public but still a lot to swallow by the leadership:

“Some bishops . . . have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole,” the Administrative Committee writes at the top of their statement. “They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others,” they continue. “They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers.”

So forthright an admission of widespread failure and miscarriage of duty has been a long time coming. It is welcome, even though it does not satisfy.

It’s a start, says Catholic World Report.

It belongs to the faithful to hold [the bishops] to the promises they have made, and to demand a responsible part in even stronger measures — ones really apt, as the Administrative Committee says, “to repair the scandal and restore justice.” Whether this is a real beginning of that long and arduous work, or merely more empty words, remains to be seen.

To be sure.

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