Statement from the National Review Board Calls for Lay Leadership Amid Sexual Abuse Crisis

August 29, 2018 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—TheNationalReview Board (NRB) has issued the following inresponse to the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report and recent allegationsagainst Archbishop McCarrick. In thestatement, the NRB calls for a lay-lead investigation into all allegations ofsexual misconduct within the Church as well as strengthening  the Charter for the Protection ofChildren and Young People.  Established in 2002, the purpose of theNational Review Board is to work collaboratively with the Committee for theProtection of Children and Young People in preventing the sexual abuse ofminors in the United States by persons in the service of the Church.

Thefull National Review Board statement follows:

"While the policiesand procedures that have beenimplemented by the Church since 2002 to address the sexual abuse of minors bythe clergy have resulted in a significant decrease of such abuse, therevelations of horrific incidents of abuse in the Pennsylvania Grand JuryReport, along with the abuse perpetrated by Archbishop McCarrick point to asystemic problem within the Church that can no longer be ignored or toleratedby the episcopacy in the United States. The National Review Board has for several years expressed its concernthat bishops not become complacent in their response to sexual abuse by theclergy. The recent revelations make itclear that the problem is much deeper. We are saddened, angry, and hurt by what we have learned in the past fewweeks. The evil of the crimes that have been perpetrated reaching into thehighest levels of the hierarchy will not be stemmed simply by the creation ofnew committees, policies, or procedures. What needs to happen is a genuinechange in the Church's culture, specifically among the bishops themselves. This evil has resulted from a loss of moralleadership and an abuse of power that led to a culture of silence that enabledthese incidents to occur. Intimidation,fear, and the misuse of authority created an environment that was takenadvantage of by clerics, including bishops, causing harm to minors,seminarians, and those most vulnerable. The culture of silence enabled the abuse to go on virtually unchecked. Trust was betrayed for the victims/survivorsof the abuse; the entire Body of Christ was betrayed in turn by these crimesand the failure to act.

"The National ReviewBoard firmly believes, as has been expressed by several bishops in recent days,that the episcopacy needs to be held accountable for these past actions, and inthe future, for being complicit, either directly or indirectly, in the sexualabuse of the vulnerable. Holding bishopsaccountable will require an independent review into the actions of the bishopwhen an allegation comes to light. Theonly way to ensure the independence of such a review is to entrust this to thelaity, as recently suggested by Cardinal DiNardo. The NRB, composed exclusively of lay members,would be the logical group to be involved in this task. Establishing an anonymous whistleblowerpolicy, as is found in corporations, higher education and other institutions inboth the public and private sector, that would be independent of the hierarchywith participation by the laity, perhaps the NRB, who would report allegationsto the local bishop, local law enforcement, the nuncio and Rome, needs to beestablished immediately. Another problemthat needs to be addressed is the Charterfor the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter has been helpful in the Church'sresponse to sexual abuse by the clergy. However, the Charter should beunderstood as a living document that is in constant need of revision based onwhat we have learned and experienced over the years, as well as current newrealities. The members of the NRB have on numerous occasions pointed out theweaknesses in the Charter given itsdeliberate ambiguity and its lack of inclusion of bishops. During the most recent revision process ofthe Charter, many of therecommendations made by the NRB to strengthen the Charter were not incorporated for a variety of reasons. These recommendations need to bere-considered in light of the current situation, as well as the inclusion ofbishops in the Charter. The NRB also believes that the statement ofEpiscopal Commitment is ineffective and needs to be revised into a meaningful,actionable commitment. In particular,the notion of "fraternal correction" must outline concrete steps that will betaken when a bishop is alleged to have committed sexual abuse or has failed torespond immediately and without hesitation when a cleric is accused of sexualabuse. To ensure that bishops undertaketheir obligation to act decisively when they have knowledge of incidences ofsexual abuse committed by the clergy or their brother bishops, there must besubstantive formation of newly appointed bishops on their responsibility asmoral leaders within the Church, especially in responding to sexual abuse,something which is currently lacking.

"Since its creation inthe Charter, the NRB has sought toprovide its advice to the bishops to assist them in addressing the sexual abuseof minors. We will continue to work withthe bishops, particularly in responding to Cardinal DiNardo's request for theNRB's assistance in the proposed investigation he has called for regardingrecent revelations. In the coming weeks, the NRB will consider whatrecommendations to make to the bishops in light of that request. We recognize that the overwhelming majorityof our current bishops have, and continue to, take the sexual abuse of minorsseriously and who act accordingly by adhering to the Charter, some even going beyond these basic requirements. However, every time one bishop fails to act,the entire episcopate is tainted. It istime for the laity to assume courageous leadership to help the Church respondand to heal and for the bishops to listen carefully to our recommendations. Weneed not only to pray for the Church and most especially for thevictims/survivors and their families who have been wounded by this terriblescourge, but we must take concrete action to address the systemic problemsunderlying the problem of sexual abuse in the Church."    

Moreinformation on the National Review Board can be found at:


Keywords:United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N.DiNardo, Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, Committee for the Protection of Children andYoung People, Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, Pennsylvania, GrandJury Report, sexual abuse, clergyman, U.S. bishops, Charter for the Protectionof Children and Young People, prevention, accompaniment, accountability,justice.


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Judy Keane