Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, looks on at the conclusion of the second day of the spring general assembly of the USCCB in Baltimore June 12, 2019. Looking on is Msgr. J. Brian Bransfield, general secretary. CNS photo/Bob Roller

Abuse hotline gets go ahead by scandalized U.S. bishops

By  Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
  • June 20, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Creation of a third-party system for receiving confidential reports of complaints against bishops was approved at the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a series of three votes June 12, the bishops voted overwhelmingly to authorize the implementation of a system that would allow people to report allegations of sexual abuse, inaction or coverups concerning bishops through a toll-free telephone number as well as online. The system, which would be operated by an outside vendor, is to be in place by May 31, 2020.

Anthony Picarello, USCCB associate general secretary, said the reporting system would meet the requirements of Pope Francis’ “motu proprio” issued in May establishing new universal Church law to safeguards minors and vulnerable adults from abuse and to hold Church leaders accountable. 

Among its mandates, the document requires dioceses worldwide to establish “one or more public, stable and easily accessible systems for submission of reports.” It set June 1, 2020, as a deadline.

In the U.S., allegations received by the reporting system will be sent to the appropriate metropolitan, or archbishop, responsible for each diocese and to the papal nunciature in Washington, Picarello said. The metropolitans will be responsible for reporting any allegation to local law enforcement authorities.

Although the deadline for implementation is nearly one year away, the bishops hope the full system can be operating sooner, Picarello said.

“I can assure the Executive Committee along with the Administrative Committee, we want this thing done as quickly as possible,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, conference president. 

The U.S. bishops also approved a plan to implement the Pope’s “motu proprio” issued in May. It came out of the Vatican’s February Vatican summit on clergy sexual abuse attended by the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences.

The document established “procedures for reporting complaints of sexual abuse of minors or of vulnerable persons by clerics or by members of institutes of consecrated life or societies of apostolic life,” said Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine. It also holds Church leaders accountable for actions or omissions relating to the handling of such reports,” he added.

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