Vigneron said that the independent body would be registered as an independent not-for-profit organization with a board of directors and produce an annual report detailing how many cases it investigated each year. He also explained that, as part of its independence from the bishops' conference, the commission would be funded through contributions by dioceses directly, with an expected annual cost projected of $500,000, plus expenses for individual investigations.
While being itself totally independent, Vigneron underscored that the authority of local bishop would be respected, saying the work of the commission would not "over-ride the will of the bishop but rely on his consent" to work in the diocese of each complaint.
During an extended question and answer session, a number of bishops raised questions about the proposals as they were presented.
Archbishop Sample raised the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, which he said appeared to show that the breakdown in the current system took place at the level of the nunciature, with allegations either not being forwarded to Rome, or not being acted upon when they arrived there.
Sample noted that "we can do whatever we want here but there needs to be a partnership with the Holy See" so that allegations were not "swept under the rug."
Archbishop Wenski of Miami noted that the active support of the nuncio was crucial; otherwise the plan would be "an exercise in futility."
Several bishops seemed to speak against creation of the commission all together.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas told the conference that "we already have a process" and that proposals were "adding something that doesn't have a particular purpose."
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago suggested that the plan was unnecessary and separated the process from "the life of the Church." "We already have a system [to handle accusations against bishops] through metropolitans," he told the bishops. He called the proposed commission a way of "outsourcing" problems instead of "taking responsibility for ourselves."
Archbishop Vigneron responded to Cupich, saying that the commission was "a form of assistance" for bishops and "an act of communion, engaged in mutual communion to support one another."
Vigneron told Cupich it would function "in harmony with each of us as bishops exercising governance."
(Story continues below)
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Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia raised a similar point, noting that the existing structures organized around metropolitan archbishops could provide a more cost-effective option but would simply not be feasible without a strengthened canonical authority for metropolitan bishops.
Chaput said it was the conclusion of the executive committee that it might be easier to get Roman approval for a whole new structure than a change in canon law to make this possible.
Bishop Anthony DiMarzio of Brooklyn offered the last observation of the discussion, noting that the confidentialy or publicity of the process was a serious concern. He said that the lesson to be drawn from the treatment of many priests publicly accused of abuse but later found innocent was that a person's good name often could not be recovered.
DiMarzio said that the proposed commission was bound to do everything possible to restore an innocent bishop's good name, this would likely prove an impossible task.
The discussion of both proposals will continue tomorrow, by which time bishops will have submitted proposed amendments to the plans.