Bishops draft plan to hold themselves accountable for sexual abuse and negligence

Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, gives the opening prayer Nov. 13 at the bishops' fall general assembly in Baltimore. Also pictured are Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, USCCB general secretary. (CNS photo/Bob Roller) 

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

It also instructed the U.S. bishops' canonical affairs committee to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

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It initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult or "negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases."

The committee said it supported “a full investigation into the situation” surrounding Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick.

The committee also said it supported "a full investigation into the situation" surrounding Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, "including his alleged assaults on minors, priests and seminarians, as well as "any responses made to those allegations."

The statement, released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, came out of the committee's semiannual meeting Sept. 11-12 at USCCB headquarters in Washington.

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

“We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”

"This is only a beginning," the committee said in its Sept. 19 statement, noting that the actions it outlined can be taken "within its authority."

"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," it said. "We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable."

The committee acknowledged its members had assembled for their meeting in Washington at a "time of shame and sorrow."

"Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the church as a whole," the committee said. "They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others.

"They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers," it continued. "For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed. Turning to the Lord for strength, we must and will do better."

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James Riley
3 weeks 5 days ago

It is time for the Bishops to do the right thing and dissolve the Conference of Bishops; is this too much to ask;is it too much to ask, or for them to ask, where are the women? Why are we still using sexist, non-gender neutral language instead of words like “chairmen”; is it too much to ask, where are our gay brothers and sisters and, as there should be, our married priests? It is much too late to be investigating or deconstructing the misdeeds of Mc Carrick. Move on and reform the structure of the Church to save it from its own self-inflicted wounds of the past.

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 4 days ago

James - you want to dissolve the Conference of Bishops and "move on" from documenting who knew what and when McCarrick? Sounds like you want a whitewash, get the enablers off scot-free. This cannot happen. Revelations are coming out every week of gay adult seminarians, priests and bishops, doing exactly what McCarrick did. From Chile to Honduras, to Australia to Germany, to the Netherlands, the USA and the Vatican, everything must be investigated. As the saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Document everyone and let every abuser or enabler repent, resign and be healed. They need this as much as the rest of us, as their own souls are at stake.

James Riley
3 weeks 5 days ago

It is time for the Bishops to do the right thing and dissolve the Conference of Bishops; is this too much to ask;is it too much to ask, or for them to ask, where are the women? Why are we still using sexist, non-gender neutral language instead of words like “chairmen”; is it too much to ask, where are our gay brothers and sisters and, as there should be, our married priests? It is much too late to be investigating or deconstructing the misdeeds of Mc Carrick. Move on and reform the structure of the Church to save it from its own self-inflicted wounds of the past.

James Riley
3 weeks 5 days ago

Admin please remove my duplicate posts and leave but one; I find that I cannot delete the duplicates in my own Thank you.

James Riley
3 weeks 5 days ago

It is time for the Bishops to do the right thing and dissolve the Conference of Bishops; is this too much to ask;is it too much to ask, or for them to ask, where are the women? Why are we still using sexist, non-gender neutral language instead of words like “chairmen”; is it too much to ask, where are our gay brothers and sisters and, as there should be, our married priests? It is much too late to be investigating or deconstructing the misdeeds of Mc Carrick. Move on and reform the structure of the Church to save it from its own self-inflicted wounds of the past.

James Riley
3 weeks 5 days ago

Admin please remove my duplicate posts and leave but one; I find that I cannot delete the duplicates in my own Thank you.

Michael Barberi
3 weeks 5 days ago

The USCCB bishops cannot hold themselves accountable for sexual abuse, coverup, et al. This sexual abuse scandal has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted.

A third party lay-lead impartial permanent committee or permanent lay-lead inspector general type official office with broad unrestricted authority and responsibility is the only reliable solution to receive, investigate, report and recommend justice for those accused and found guilty of sexual abuse, coverup, et al. This includes priests, bishops, cardinals and popes. Anything less is unacceptable.

Trent Shannon
3 weeks 5 days ago

Considering the attention - and its ongoing attention, besides there are more revelations to come reporting has changed dramatically (here in Australia when not in confessional its reported to police, ive read one story recently from the US where the abuse was reported to police) - give some credit. The "damage control" "protect the reputation" "keep it hush hush" days are now dead

Did you not see the mention of the third party in this article? Its clear as day, and clear as day independent - which implies ex-confessional btw.

As they say, this is a start. It would come from recommendations in the grand jury report, filtered through from our Royal Commission's recommendations - a number of which went right up.to the Holy See

Wait until the results are shown, rather than cast aspersions now. The big look is at lay-oversight independence

Michael Barberi
3 weeks 4 days ago

Trent,

If the so-called 'third party' mentioned in this article is a lay-lead impartial committee or a lay-lead inspector general type office, I suggest, then I agree. What we do not need is an independent committee or inspector general type office dominated by bishops with only 'token' lay people participating.

Jackie Garnett
3 weeks 5 days ago

Isn’t this like the fox guarding the hen house?

A Fielder
3 weeks 5 days ago

What does it mean to have a third party confidential reporting system? Will credible allegations be made public? And who will do the investigation after the report is made? Under what authority will discipline be imposed? Or are these just quiet recommendations to Rome? This is still unclear to me. It appears that the third party will have a scope of responsibility similar to a mailbox.

A Fielder
3 weeks 4 days ago

Also, who is going to do the full investigation into McCarrick? Will the Vatican cooperate? Or is this just another sound bite?

Paul Mclaughlin
3 weeks 5 days ago

I agree with Jim Spangler. They are rushing to do something to say they fixed the problem. They should not be the ones drafting anything. They should have appointed a lay lead committee to investigate the bishops handling of all things relating to sexual misconduct of priests and bishops - sexual abuse of minors, rape, engaging in consensual sex with adults of both genders, children conceived by priests having sex with women...

From that work, new norms should be developed by the lay lead body.

Otherwise, it will always be thought of as another attempted coverup to protect their jobs and status.

They still don’t get it.

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 4 days ago

I am very impressed with this USCCB response and hope something as strong comes soon from the Vatican. Those worried about a rush do not understand the urgency of the situation. They acknowledge that “this is only a beginning”, that they support a “full investigation” of the McCarrick affair, “relying on lay experts in relevant fields.” They approved “the establishment of a confidential third-party reporting system (phone & online) for complaints against bishops” and a new Code of Conduct with punishments for offending or negligent bishops. They urge in tandem that anyone who has been abused not hesitate to contact law enforcement. They confirm that bishops have sexually abused minors and seminarians, that fears of scandal have resulted in cover-up and enabling by other bishops, that a deep examination of conscience, prayer and penance is needed for all bishops.
http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-152.cfm
I would like to see the lay panels (Inspectors General) have parallel jurisdiction as the dioceses, reporting to the Pope, but understand that this has to be led by the Vatican and will take some time to find the people and establish rules of conduct in Canon Law. There must be a swift response for the guilty and innocent, since justice delayed is justice denied.

Paul Mclaughlin
3 weeks 2 days ago

I am not impressed. They should have come up with a lay committee that would present proposals and a lay oversight board to manage implementation. They have to stop seeing themselves as supreme rulers beholden to no one. We may not have a formal vote, but we do control our purse strings.

Crystal Watson
3 weeks 4 days ago

The bishops can't be trusted to police themselves. And when they say they're ready to fully investigate the McCarrick situation, does that include getting answers from Pope Francis about his possible cover-up?

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 4 days ago

Crystal - Absolutely, it needs a Vatican response. I think they don't yet understand the urgency but they will get it if we keep pushing. No one, cleric or laity can police themselves. We all know the vast majority of abuse is done by the laity. What we need is checks and balances. I like the idea of an independent lay Catholic judiciary of sorts, composed of lay people who are fully committed to the faith as found in Scriptures and the Catechism. Active dissent or a moral life inconsistent with Church teaching must be a disqualifying factor, as that will only result in further cover-up and a doctrinal circus. Let the secular authorities do their thing, but as the Philadelphia Grand Jury shows, their batting average for separating true from false charges is less than 50%. And, they take forever. The recent PA GJ will not result in any new convictions and the innocent will never be cleared. The Church must not wait for them.

A Fielder
3 weeks 4 days ago

"Active dissent or a moral life inconsistent with Church teaching must be a disqualifying factor, as that will only result in further cover-up and a doctrinal circus."

Tim, the reason why we are in this crisis is because there are too many clerics holding back their dissent and hiding their moral life because they want a promotion or at least job security. Failure to live according to ones conscience, on the other hand, together will the inability to dialogue and discern about important contemporary matters, are very serious problems. Simply ignoring those who disagree with you is not really unity.

Move over, your estimation of civil authority is far too low. If it were not for civil law, I doubt we would even have the Dallas Charter. It is the Church's shame that we have needed to be held accountable by the state.

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 4 days ago

You could just as easily say the enabling is due to the dissent, lived dishonestly. Any cleric who will not accept the Church's teaching should find another line of work, as it is hypocritical for them to masquerade as such. Let the doctrinal disputes occur in other venues, in the open, but never by pretext or by subterfuge.
As to the civil success rate, I have studied the Philadelphia case in detail. The DA, Seth Williams, announced results of a Grand Jury in March 2011. He declared 37 priests likely abusers (alleged). But 8 had already been investigated and cleared, 3 were too old (assumed bad). Archdiocese immediately put all 26 active accused priest on administrative leave. Some years later, we have the outcome (http://archphila.org/HHHIC/hhhic.php).
1 died (inconclusive), 4 found CSA - Child sexual abuse & went to criminal cases. 10 found unsuitable for reasons other than CSA (Adult affairs, harassment, crossed boundaries, etc.). 11 were cleared & were returned to ministry: that's 42% of the 26, or 19/37 (51%). Very poor batting average!

A Fielder
3 weeks 3 days ago

Tim, are priests supposed to be people who turn off their conscience so they can be the mouth piece of the bishop? Our society, if it is aiming at justice, must allow for and encourage doctrinal development. In your model, our ordained religious leaders would be excluded from this important work. Some people are dissapointed that the bishops are not leaders, especially in the context of sexual abuse, but really they were promoted to this job because they are followers, so to expect anything else Is to pray for a miracle.

Michael Barberi
3 weeks 4 days ago

Crystal,

Equally important:

1. Will a lay-lead committee thoroughly investigate how and why JP II promoted McCarrick to Cardinal when his decades-long sexual abuse of seminarians was known by US Bishops and Cardinals and Vatican Officials including the Apostolic Nuncio to the U.S by Fr. Ramsey's letter?

2. Why did Benedict XVI do nothing to McCarrick when he blatantly ignored the sanctions he imposed on him?

A Fielder
3 weeks 3 days ago

Tim, I'm not sure what your point is. Are you suggesting that it hard to prosecute sexual offenders because their friends and enablers (like Mark Judge) cover for them, so we should lower our expectations that they will be held accountable? Given your usual distrust of civil authorities, I was expecting that these articles would be about wrongly accused/convicted men finally exonerated.

John Barbieri
3 weeks 4 days ago

With the exception of Henry VIII, the clergy has been the cause of virtually every church disaster. The clergy and the hierarchy have preyed on the laity. They have demonstrated that they are completely untrustworthy. Judaism and the Bahai Faith do quite well without clergy. So could a new iteration of Catholic Christianity. The current structure of the church is a way that it can be, not a way that it must be. Only the clergy need the clergy. A privileged clerical caste ruling a subjugated laity is a recipe for perpetual abuse. The clergy in general and the hierarchy in particular need to go.

Tim O'Leary
3 weeks 4 days ago

John - you don't understand the role of the Clergy. The Jewish faith have the rabbi's (originally from the Levite tribe, dedicated to the priesthood). If one doesn't have priests, one doesn't have the sacrificial celebration, which is mainly the Eucharist, but also other sacraments. The right to bind & loose, the confidence in doctrine, comes through apostolic succession. Clergy don't have to be investigators, or managers, or organizers of everything. The laity could certainly be more involved in that. You are right that most heresies are associated with clergy. But, the laity who lose the faith, or part of it, either leave, or become more or less private dissenters. They have less effect on the flow of doctrine, which in Christianity, as in Judaism, flows from the founder to his followers to the clergy to the laity. That is how it goes, in most organized religion (it's different in disorganized religion, like the Bahá'í Faith)

John Barbieri
3 weeks 3 days ago

Unhappily, there is no primary source about what Jesus actually said , did or wanted. Only stories (The Gospels) about him are available to us. While the faith accepts tradition, knowing what parts of it are true is very difficult even for the finest scholars. In view of their misadventures over the centuries, the clergy is not above being self serving in their claims. Forgive me for quoting Aesop: "Necessity is the mother of invention."

A Fielder
3 weeks 3 days ago

John, the historicity of individual gospel stories are irrelevant. What matters is that the gospels are the witness of the early church’s living faith. We are not passing down a list of historical facts; we are passing down a faith. It’s not the events that matter as much as the meaning of those events for the church and our lives.

Michael Barberi
3 weeks 4 days ago

John,

I noticed the spelling of your surname. My family name was originally "Barbieri". I have traced my family to the 1500s in Italy. I know that the surname "Barbieri" is a common name in Italy. Do you know your ancestral town?

John Barbieri
3 weeks 3 days ago

Thank you, Mr. Barberi. My branch of the Barbieri family came from Milan to the best of my knowledge.

Michael Barberi
3 weeks 2 days ago

My paternal Barbieri ancestors came from a small mountain town in Italy called "Cerrito Sannita". It is about 40 miles northeast of Naples. If you ever what some guidance about tracing your Barbieri ancestors, let me know. My email is: mj2barberi@yahoo.com

fjaramil@carleton.edu
3 weeks 3 days ago

More meetings of bishops behind closed doors? That's it?

Fernan Jaramillo

fjaramil@carleton.edu
3 weeks 3 days ago

More meetings of bishops behind closed doors? That's it?

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