The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops concluded its spring meeting in Baltimore by passing three major policies, each of which is designed to address their own accountability in sex abuse cases.
While the bishops celebrated the new policies as a major achievement, many within the Catholic Church believe these rules don’t go far enough because they still place responsibility for handling sex abuse by bishops in the hands of fellow bishops – this despite years of cover-ups and denials.
New Policies Include Hotline, Protections for Whistle-Blowers
The new policies approved by the bishops include:
- A measure overwhelmingly approved that adapts the rules regarding sex abuse that Pope Francis issued last month. Those rules provide a detailed mechanism for reporting allegations of sex abuse against bishops and offer protections to whistle-blowers. It also requires victims to be offered support services, ranging from therapy to spiritual counseling, and promises to protect their confidentiality.
- A policy that commits the bishops to the terms of the so-called Dallas Charter, a 2002 document that affirmed a zero tolerance policy against child sexual abuse, but excluded bishops. It also granted bishops the power to discipline predecessors who left office for a “grave” reason.
- Creation of a national hotline operated by a third-party vendor which Catholics could use to report that a bishop had abused a child, sexually harassed an adult, or mishandled an abuse report.
Ongoing Pattern of Abuse and Cover-Up
Given the numerous sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church in recent years – and continue to be reported – the question that remains to be answered is whether these changes will make any difference.
In recent weeks alone, the Church has faced the arrests of five former priests accused of sex abuse in Michigan, a Texas criminal investigation into allegations that a priest manipulated a parishioner into a sexual relationship, and an admission by the Archbishop of Baltimore that he deleted the name of a West Virginia bishop accused of sexual and financial misconduct from a report to the Vatican.
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What to Do If You Are a Victim
This ongoing pattern of sex abuse and cover-up led Anne Burke, an Illinois Supreme Court justice who chaired the Catholic Church’s National Review Board when the sex abuse crisis first exploded in 2002, to call the new policies approved by the bishops “a fallacy.” She continued, “There should be no intermediary – call the police.”
With those words in mind, if you have been a victim of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, it is essential for you to contact the authorities immediately. You should also contact an attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and help determine whether you have a claim. The attorneys at The Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have successfully handled numerous clergy sex abuse cases. Call 800-730-7111 today to discuss your case. Consultations are always free and you pay nothing unless we win.