Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2019 / 11:48 am
A national third-party reporting system for allegations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct against bishops could be activated by February 2020, the U.S. bishops’ conference said Wednesday.
Anthony Picarello, general counsel for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told bishops Nov. 13 at their annual fall meeting in Baltimore that a contract had been finalized for the anticipated third-party reporting mechanism for allegations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct made against bishops.
The system could be ready for use by February 2020, he said, well ahead of the Holy See’s May deadline. However, metropolitans and dioceses would need to be ready to receive allegations.
Picarello spoke to the U.S. bishops near the close of their general meeting in Baltimore held Nov. 11-14. The bishops had elected a new conference president—Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles—and a new vice president, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, as well as six committee chairs.
In September 2018, the bishops’ executive committee had initially proposed a third-party reporting mechanism to handle accusations made against bishops. The decision followed new claims of sex abuse that had been made against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick in the summer of 2018; in August, McCarrick was removed from the College of Cardinals and assigned a life of prayer and penance.
At their November 2018 meeting, however, the U.S. bishops did not take substantive action on the abuse crisis following instructions from the Vatican that they not act until a clergy sex abuse summit in Rome would be convened in February 2019.
After that February summit, Pope Francis issued his apostolic letter Vos estis lux mundi, which outlined a canonical process of handling accusations of abuse, neglect, or misconduct made against bishops.
To handle such accusations, the U.S. bishops voted overwhelmingly at their spring meeting in June to authorize a third-party reporting mechanism to receive accusations made online or by phone.