Bishops Move Forward on Accountability

MOVING FORWARD — Concrete Steps to Hold Bishops Accountable

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  1. What happened in Baltimore?
    The USCCB voted on several proposals to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. We specifically committed to involving and utilizing lay professional experts. We also established a new, independent mechanism for the reporting of such cases.
  2. Isn’t the “Metropolitan Model” just bishops policing bishops?
    While we have seen Metropolitan investigations achieve success in uncovering, publicizing and punishing bishop misconduct multiple times in the past year, the body of bishops agreed in Baltimore that independent lay oversight is crucial. The combination of lay involvement, Metropolitan leadership and the final judgment of the Holy See will ensure that complaints are evaluated thoroughly, and justice is achieved for victims and survivors.
  3. How exactly will the laity be involved?
    We’re building upon the well-established practice of lay expertise in the Church, starting at the very beginning of this process. Laypeople will assist us in informing the public about how to utilize our new reporting mechanism. A lay person will be informed any time a complaint comes through that process. Lay investigators will be identified at the provincial level by Metropolitan Archbishops and will play an active role in investigating individual complaints against bishops.
  4. Is this process transparent? What will the public know about credible complaints against individual bishops?
    Pope Francis’s Motu Proprio includes whistleblower protections that will allow anyone making a complaint to publicize it however they wish. The new Directives require those making a complaint to be given documents describing the process. As noted, the bishops are also committed to lay involvement in both the receiving of complaints against bishops and in any investigations. With these safeguards, the bishops are committed to making the process as transparent as they possibly can.
  5. Level with me: Will the policies approved in Baltimore protect people from abuse at the hands of bishops?
    We’ve achieved a goal stated by USCCB President Cardinal DiNardo throughout the process: We’ve filled the gaps in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and now build upon its success. The Holy Father’s Motu Proprio, the new Directives, the renewed Episcopal Commitments, the third-party reporting system, and the heavy emphasis and reliance on lay expertise in the United States will bring unprecedented accountability throughout the hierarchy of the American Church.

General Assembly | June 2019
Bishop Accountability & Laity At a Glance

This week, the bishops of the United States of America approved Protocol Regarding Available Non-Penal Restrictions on Bishops, Affirming Our Episcopal Commitments, and Directives for the Implementation of the Provisions of Vos estis lux mundi Concerning Bishops and their Equivalents

  1. Commit
    To the involvement of lay professionals
    To appoint a qualified lay person to receive reports of bishop misconduct and to publicize the means by which people can make such complaints
    To appoint an investigator chosen from the list of lay experts previously prepared in consultation with bishops of his province
  2. Inform
    The person asserting an allegation of their rights under the Motu Proprio and Directives
  3. Establish
    A notification process for conflicts of interest
  4. Ensure
    Conflicts of interest claims won’t result in prejudice, retaliation, or discrimination

Committed to Accountability
Ongoing Steps

“Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident to everyone.” (1 Tim 4:15)

Charter & Essential Norms
June 2002, Revised June 2011 and June 2018

  • Zero Tolerance
  • Required Reporting to Public Authorities
  • Lay Review Boards
  • Victim Assistance Coordinators
  • Safe Environment Training
  • Background Checks
  • Two John Jay studies of abuse in the Church

Motu Proprio
May 2019

  • Reporting Systems
  • Timely Investigations
  • Survivor Support
  • Whistleblower Protection
  • Conflict of Interest Ban
  • Lay Involvement
  • Compliance with Civil Law
  • Grounded in the Law and Life of the Local Church

Implementation Directives
June 2019 General Assembly

  • Outlines Use of Lay Experts to Investigate and Publicize Allegations
  • National 3rd Party Reporting
  • Strengthens Conflict of Interest Ban
  • Pastoral Care for Those Harmed
  • Affirms Duties of Metropolitan

June 2019 General Assembly

  • Guidance on Bishops Who Were Removed or Who Resigned for Reasons Related to Sexual Abuse or Abuse of Power
  • Guidance on Participation of Such Bishops Removed or Resigned in USCCB Meetings

Episcopal Commitments
June 2019 General Assembly

  • Bishops Included in Codes of Conduct that Must Include Prohibitions Against Sexual Misconduct and Harassment
  • Bishops Renew Pledge to Be Subject to the Charter
  • Commitment to Ongoing Formation for Bishops
  • Commitment to Include Expertise of Lay Professionals