Washington D.C., Aug 16, 2018 / 10:26 am (CNA).- The U.S. bishops’ conference called for a Vatican-led investigation into allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups surrounding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, as well for new abuse reporting processes, and greater involvement of laity in addressing abuse concerns.
“We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, in an Aug. 16 statement.
“Stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them,” are needed, said DiNardo, “protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.”
The bishops will invite the Vatican to conduct an official Apostolic Visitation to the United States to address questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, in consultation with the lay members of the National Review Board, DiNardo said.
Previously the U.S. bishops did not “make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops,” acknowledged DiNardo, who called for the development of “reliable third-party reporting mechanisms.”
Among the bishops’ goals is to make canonical procedures for complaints against bishops “more prompt, fair, and transparent” and “to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.”
DiNardo outlined three criteria for how the bishops will approach past and future abuses: independence from bias or undue influence by a bishop, substantial involvement of the laity, and respect for proper authority in the Church.
“Because only the pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power,” the statement added.
Lay involvement will include people with expertise in law enforcement, psychology, investigation, and other relevant disciplines, according to the statement.
In a meeting earlier this week, the U.S. bishops’ executive committee outlined “these necessary changes” and said that they will present their goals to the Vatican and to all U.S. bishops during the USCCB’s fall meeting in November.
DiNardo ended the bishops’ statement with an apology:
“I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.”
“We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow …”
“Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.”
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