The USCCB hands over abuse investigations to laity and a third-party reporting system.
The statement comes shortly after several leading bishops from the United States visited with Pope Francis last week to discuss what must be done in response to the crisis. The bishops said after meeting with the Holy Father, “We look forward to actively continuing our discernment together identifying the most effective next steps.”
In yesterday’s statement, the bishops outlined four key initial steps that need to be taken.
1. Approved 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.
2. Instructed 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.
3. Initiated 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.
4. Supported a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, including his alleged assaults on minors, priests, and seminarians, as well as any responses made to those allegations. Such an investigation should rely upon lay experts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.
The bishops also cited their need to examine their own consciences, taking a passage from the book of James as their guide: “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
They admitted that this is only the beginning and “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. We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”