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Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, bishops’ code of conduct

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Julie Asher

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Pledging to “heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us,” the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee Sept. 19 outlined actions to address the abuse crisis, including approving the establishment of a third-party confidential reporting system for claims of any abuse by bishops.

It also instructed the U.S. bishops’ canonical affairs committee to develop proposals for policies addressing restrictions on bishops who were removed or resigned because of allegations of abuse of minors or adults.

It initiated the process of developing a code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual misconduct with a minor or adult” or “negligence in the exercise of his office related to such cases.”

The committee also said it supported “a full investigation into the situation” surrounding Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, “including his alleged assaults on minors, priests and seminarians, as well as “any responses made to those allegations.”

The statement, released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, came out of the committee’s semiannual meeting Sept. 11-12 at USCCB headquarters in Washington.

The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority of the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops when they meet for their fall and spring general assemblies.

“This is only a beginning,” the committee said in its Sept. 19 statement, noting that the actions it outlined can be taken “within its authority.”

“Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts and other laity along with clergy and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice,” it said. “We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”

The committee acknowledged its members had assembled for their meeting in Washington at a “time of shame and sorrow.”

“Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the church as a whole,” the committee said. “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,” it continued. “For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed. Turning to the Lord for strength, we must and will do better.”

MORE TO COME

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