At their annual meeting in mid-June, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops voted overwhelmingly in favor of new protocols to hold themselves accountable for committing sexual abuse themselves and for mishandling accusations of abuse against others. The new protocols encourage lay involvement at every stage of an investigation but stopped short of requiring it. In a survey that was part of our online coverage of the bishops’ meeting, we asked America readers what they thought about the new protocols.
In what ways do you want to see lay people involved in investigations of sexual abuse and its cover-up?
I would suggest that the criterion for the proper “way” is whatever is required for re-establishing trust. Clearly, that does require the effective presence of the laity.
Essex Junction, Vt.
I would like to see lay people who are of different faiths come together to assess the appropriateness of the claim. If viable, civil authorities and the bishops’ committee should be informed of the findings simultaneously. A member of the lay group should be assigned to monitor the case’s progress through the bishops’ investigation and deliberation.
Newton Square, Pa.
I am not too sure it is a lay person’s responsibility to teach right and wrong to our clerics. I would like to see more clerics understanding the sensitivity, legal definition and legal consequences of abusing someone’s sexuality. If lay people get involved or have to get involved, I would see it at the end of the investigation.
Professional mental health care providers specializing in sexual trauma, lawyers who are deeply familiar with family and criminal law, members of sexual victims’ rights groups, pediatricians, sexual assault nurse examiners, physicians, representatives of law enforcement and parish leaders [should] be core members of a case review board whose purpose is to provide actionable information to church leadership in the handling of each sexual assault case.
Severna Park, Md.
What issues are being neglected by the bishops because of the ongoing need to address the sexual abuse scandal?
The bishops need to address corruption in general, not just sexual abuse. As we learned recently, not all corruption among the clergy is about sex. Financial corruption and fallout from clericalism must also be rooted out.
St. Louis, Mo.
Trust is being neglected. The faithful have lost a lot of trust in bishops. In order to regain that trust, every aspect of sexual abuse accusations must include laypeople.
Corpus Christi, Tex.
This issue is of paramount importance because the bishops have lost credibility; and until they effectively address this, their contributions to other issues are lacking.