Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, has welcomed Pope Francis’ new commission to fight the sexual abuse of minors, pledging his help and support in its mission.
“Abuse of minors is a sin and a crime, and every step must be taken to eradicate this blight. Such abuse is especially grave when committed by anyone in ministry in our Church,” the Louisville, Ky., archbishop said Dec. 5.
Earlier in the week, Pope Francis approved a proposal for a new commission to advise him on how to protect children from abuse and how to help abuse victims.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, a member of an eight-cardinal council advising the Pope, explained at a Dec. 5 press conference that the commission will study current child protection programs and suggest new initiatives for the Roman curia, in collaboration with the bishops and episcopal conferences.
The commission will consist of international experts in relevant child protection fields, including psychology.
Archbishop Kurtz promised the “full cooperation” of the U.S. bishops with the commission.
“Our prayers are with Pope Francis and this commission, and we are grateful for this effort,” he said.
Sexual abuse is a “horrific problem,” the archbishop emphasized, and the announcement of the initiative shows “a broad-based approach” that is considering changes in Vatican procedures regarding abuse. Possible changes include how the Church responds to abuse accusations against clergy, how to train future priests, and other pastoral efforts.
Archbishop Kurtz said the sexual abuse of minors is a problem throughout society, adding that “every effort must be made to protect children, particularly within the Church.”
He explained that the U.S. bishops have learned many important measures to help prevent abuse, including background checks, education of children and adults on child safety, the “swift removal of offenders,” and the need for Church authorities and civil authorities to work together.
“While these efforts have resulted in a dramatic reduction in abuse cases, much work remains to be done,” he said.
Cardinal O’Malley stated at the press conference that Pope Francis will soon release a document with details about the commission.
The commission is not intended to take over the role of the individual bishop in establishing diocesan policy, the cardinal said. Rather, the commission aims to create a model for practices that adequately respond to abuse.