Turning to the Lord
"Wheneach of us was ordained as a bishop, we were told:
'Keepwatch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you toshepherd the Church of God.'
We,the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of CatholicBishops, assembled last week in Washington at this time of shame andsorrow. Some bishops, by their actionsor their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and theChurch as a whole. They have used their authority and power to manipulate andsexually abuse others. They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuineconcern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers. For this, we again ask forgiveness from boththe Lord and those who have been harmed. Turning to the Lord for strength, wemust and will do better.
TheAdministrative Committee took the following actions within its authority:
1.Approved the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will receiveconfidentially, by phone and online, complaints of sexual abuse of minors by abishop and sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishopand will direct those complaints to the appropriate ecclesiastical authorityand, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.
2.Instructed the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance todevelop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who wereremoved or resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexualharassment of or misconduct with adults, including seminarians and priests.
3.Initiated the process of developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding thesexual abuse of a minor; sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with anadult; or negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.
4.Supported a full investigation into the situation surrounding ArchbishopMcCarrick, including his alleged assaults on minors, priests, and seminarians,as well any responses made to those allegations. Such an investigation should rely upon layexperts in relevant fields, such as law enforcement and social services.
Thisis only a beginning. Consultation with abroad range of concerned parents, experts, and other laity along with clergyand religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repairthe scandal and restore justice. We humbly welcome and are grateful for theassistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.
Asthese initiatives get underway, the Administrative Committee invites each ofour brother bishops to join us in acts of prayer and penance. This is a time of deep examination ofconscience for each bishop. We cannot content ourselves that our response tosexual assault within the Church has been sufficient. Scripture must be our guide forward, "bedoers of the word and not hearers only" (James 1:22).
Inall of this, we do not want anyone – ourselves included – to lose sight ofthose who have suffered from those who have acted or failed to act as theGospel demanded. For survivors of sexual abuse, these days may re-open deepwounds. Support is available from the Church and within the community. Victims Assistance Coordinators are availablein every diocese to help you find resources. We are grateful to hundreds ofdedicated people who, since the adoption of the 2002 Charter for the Protectionof Children and Young People, have been working with the Church to supportsurvivors and prevent future abuse.
Toanyone who has been abused, never hesitate to also contact local lawenforcement. If you don't feelcomfortable for any reason with the Church providing help, your diocese canconnect you with appropriate community services. With compassion and withoutjudgement, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect withevery bit of the strength God provides us.
Actingin communion with the Holy Father, with whom we once again renew our love,obedience, and loyalty, we make our own the prayer of Pope Francis in hisAugust 20 letter to the people of God, "May the Holy Spirit grant us the graceof conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimesof abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them."
Keywords:United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, Administrative Committee,Catholic Bishops, sexual abuse, abuse of minor, sexual harassment, civilauthorities, third-party reporting, Canonical Affairs, Church Governance,Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Code of Conduct, Victim Assistance Coordinators, Holy Father, Pope Francis,Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
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