September 19, 2018
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has announced a series of new responses to the sex-abuse scandal. But the USCCB request to Pope Francis for an apostolic visitation of the American Church has apparently been rejected.
The September 19 announcement from the USCCB’s administrative committee listed four new steps, which the bishops’ conference will take on its own authority:
- the establishment of a third-party reporting system that would receive confidential complaints about sexual misconduct by bishops, and report those complaints to ecclesiastical and/or civil authorities, as appropriate;
- a project to develop proposals for canonical restrictions on bishops who resign because of complaints involving sexual misconduct;
- another project to develop a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct and negligence in responding to complaints; and
- support for a full investigation, supported by lay experts in law enforcement and social services, into the charges lodged against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the responses to those charges.
The September 19 statement comes almost a week after a meeting of USCCB leaders with Pope Francis. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the USCCB president, had sought the meeting with the Pontiff, explaining that he would ask for Vatican approval of an apostolic visitation. Such an investigation, backed by papal authority, could require bishops’ cooperation and the release of relevant Vatican documents, and would therefore greatly increase the likelihood that the charges made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano would be either proven or disproven conclusively. The American bishops’ meeting with the Pope ended without any statement regarding a possible apostolic visitation; today’s statement from the USCCB appears to indicate that the American bishops’ request was denied.
In their statement, the administrative committee of the USCCB emphasizes the determination of the American hierarchy to “heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us.” They say that the steps announced today are “only a beginning.”
The USCCB statement calls upon all bishops to make a “deep examination of conscience,” and to join in prayer and penance. “We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the Church has been sufficient,” the bishops say.