- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the creation of a national hotline to report abusive bishops as part of a series of steps to address the sexual abuse crisis.
- The steps come as a response to the scandal involving allegations against Theodore McCarrick of sexual abuse and subsequent allegations against Pope Francis and others of cover-ups.
- Victims’ abuse advocate says such hotlines should be set up by attorneys general, not the Church.
U.S. bishops announced Wednesday that, in light of rampant sexual abuse in the church, they will set up a national hotline to report abusive bishops.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic (USCCB) bishops announced the hotline as part of a series of steps they have taken to address the revelations of widespread abuse and systematic cover-ups throughout the country. A third party will run the hotline and will allow people to confidentially report abuse or harassment by bishops and will forward those reports to both church officials and, where required by law, law enforcement. (RELATED: New York And New Jersey Launch Investigations Of Sex Abuse In Catholic Church)
“Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole. They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others. They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers,” a statement from the USCCB read. “For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed.”
The steps, developed by the Administrative Committee of the USCCB, also include establishing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual abuse, harassment, misconduct, or negligence, as well as developing new policies concerning restrictions on bishops who have been removed from ministry due to such allegations.
The USCCB’s new measures come as a response not only to the general crisis of sexual abuse within the church, but more specifically to the scandal involving former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, which has come to include allegations of cover-up against Pope Francis and 32 other high-ranking church officials.
McCarrick, against whom the USCCB has urged a lay-led investigation as part of their announced steps, stands accused of sexual misconduct with several seminarians and sexual abuse against young boys. As church officials and lay leaders increasingly called for an investigation into who knew of McCarrick’s alleged abuses, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano released an 11-page letter detailing accusations that Francis, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and several other church officials knew of the allegations and rumors concerning McCarrick but covered them up and helped him advance in ecclesiastical rank.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding McCarrick’s alleged abuses and into Vigano’s allegations against Francis. He led a four-man delegation from the U.S. to the Vatican to meet with Francis and appeal for such an investigation on Sept. 13, but said nothing about an investigation or the Vatican’s previously promised “clarifications” after the meeting.
As for the hotline, abuse victims’ advocate, canon lawyer and retired priest Rev. James Connell said the trust in the church is too broken for such a hotline to work.
“The trust has been shattered. To rebuild trust, they’ve got to surrender complete control, even over the intake process. Let the attorneys general set up a number, and have people contact them — that’s where the investigations should begin,” Connell told The New York Times.
The attorneys general of New York and New Jersey recently set up hotlines of the kind that Connell suggested as part of new investigations launched into the Catholic churches in their states. The attorney general of New Jersey said their hotline has been “ringing off the hook,” according to News12 New Jersey.
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