Washington D.C., Aug 28, 2018 / 11:55 am
The body charged with advising the U.S. bishops on sexual abuse prevention has called for an independent lay-led investigation into all allegations of sexual misconduct in the Church and for revisions of the Dallas Charter.
The National Review Board (NRB), which is constituted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued the call in a sternly worded statement Aug. 28, in which it condemned a “culture of silence” in the Church hierarchy.
In a press release circulated by the U.S. bishops’ conference, the board, which is entirely composed of lay experts from different fields, said that they have been raising concerns about episcopal complacency “for several years” and called for specific reforms.
“The revelations of horrific incidents of abuse in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, along with the abuse perpetrated by Archbishop McCarrick point to a systemic problem within the Church that can no longer be ignored or tolerated by the episcopacy in the United States,” the statement read.
The board was constituted in June 2002 as part of the U.S. bishops’ response to the wave of clerical sexual abuse scandals which were revealed in the Boston Globe. The 13-member panel makes its recommendations to the USCCB’s Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The board noted that, in the wake of the sexual abuse scandals of the early 2000s, new policies and procedures had been put in place – including the creation of the NRB itself. These, the board said, resulted in a “significant decrease” of incidents of abuse, but clearly underlying problems remain unaddressed.
“The National Review Board has for several years expressed its concern that bishops not become complacent in their response to sexual abuse by the clergy. The recent revelations make it clear that the problem is much deeper. We are saddened, angry, and hurt by what we have learned in the past few weeks.”
The statement said that “the evil of crimes that have been perpetuated” reach the “highest levels of the hierarchy,” and cannot be simply addressed with procedural and structural changes. The board called for a “genuine change in the Church’s culture,” and singled out the bishops as particularly in need of change, noting that it was not just minors who were the victims of abuse.