This week, I’ll give you a quick update on the summer meeting of the United States Bishops and the latest developments on implementing reforms in response to the clergy abuse scandal. As you might recall from news reports (and bulletin columns) earlier in the year, Bishops from all over the world met with Pope Francis in February to have an unprecedented meeting to discuss this issue. Shortly after that meeting, the Pope issued a document with new laws concerning reporting of clergy sexual abuse, as well as accountability measures for bishops who commit or cover up abuse (http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html). He gave the bishops a year to create the offices and procedures necessary to enforce this law.
Many of the things that were required of this law were already in place in the United States as a result of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (a.k.a the “Dallas Charter”) adopted by the bishops in 2002, which called for mandatory reporting, zero tolerance and Safe Environment training programs. At their June meeting, they adopted some more measures to build upon the Charter and deal with some of its inadequacies and loopholes. Specifically, they did the following:
- Expanded the Dallas Charter to include bishops.
- Authorized the development (by May 31, 2020) of a third-party system for receiving reports of possible violations by bishops.
- Established protocols for imposing limitations and restrictions on bishops who were removed from office for any abuse of power.
- Presented a plan for implementing the rest of the reforms mandated by Pope Francis.
I think it’s important for all Catholics to stay up-to-date on what is being done in this area. We all felt shock and pain at the revelations of last fall, but it’s important to know that this issue hasn’t faded from our consciousness just because we’re not seeing it on the news every day. Please continue to pray for the fruitfulness of these reforms and for the healing and continued growth of our Church, that the Holy Spirit continue to guide our bishops on how to lead our Church to a more authentic witness of the Gospel.