National reporting system to be used to hold bishops accountable
March 16, 2020 – The Diocese of Scranton has joined dioceses across the nation in implementing the new Catholic Abuse Reporting Service, another important step in addressing the clergy abuse crisis and the accountability of bishops.
The system will enable anyone to report an allegation of abuse against a bishop. Reports will be taken by an independent company, and investigated by both Church officials and lay people.
In May 2019, Pope Francis released his apostolic letter “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) to address the issue of sexual abuse and holding bishops accountable in the global Catholic Church.
In June 2019, one month after Pope Francis issued his order, the bishops of the United States convened for their general assembly in Baltimore and approved the implementation plan for carrying out the directives of the Holy Father here in the United States.
It was because of the ongoing commitment of American bishops to be held accountable that the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service was established. It is operated by Convercent, Inc., an independent, third-party entity that provides intake service to private institutions through a secure and confidential process.
When a report is received by the third-party system, it will be forwarded to the supervising archbishop of the region. In the case of Pennsylvania, that is Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez. The report is at the same time forwarded to a layperson (someone who is not a priest or bishop) who has been designated to assist in receiving reports.
If the report involves abuse of a minor, it also will be forwarded to law enforcement.
After review and an initial assessment, the allegation then will be sent to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Pope’s ambassador in the United States, who will forward it to the appropriate authority at the Vatican. Within 30 days, the Vatican will assess the report and, if warranted, authorize a formal investigation.
Anyone who needs to report an allegation of sexual abuse or related misconduct against any bishop should go to https://reportbishopabuse.org/ or call, toll-free, 800-276-1562.
The service is intended to be used only for reporting allegations of abuse concerning bishops. It is not intended to be used for the reporting of other local concerns about bishops, such as priests’ parish assignments, closure of schools or parishes, or liturgical concerns.
2019 Bishops Meeting: Taking Action on Abuse Crisis
The Diocese of Scranton is committed to protecting its young people and ensuring that the local Church of Scranton continues to address issues of child sexual abuse with vigilance and fidelity.
Bishop Joseph C. Bambera attended the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops General Meeting in Baltimore from June 11-13, 2019 and voted in favor of the four new policies/procedures that were proposed during the meeting.
During that meeting, the USCCB overwhelming voted to approve proposals to hold bishops accountable for instances of sexual abuse of children or vulnerable persons, sexual misconduct, or the intentional mishandling of such cases. The bishops also re-committed themselves to involving and utilizing lay professional experts, which is already the practice of the Diocese of Scranton.
The bishops approved four important measures during their assembly. They include:
- Voting to implement the document “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) which was issued by Pope Francis in May to help the Catholic Church safeguard its members from abuse and hold its leaders accountable. The document can be viewed at: http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html
- Approving the document “Acknowledging Our Episcopal Commitments,” in which bishops affirmed the commitments they made at ordination, including the commitment to respond directly and appropriately to cases of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
- Voting for a protocol regarding non-penal restrictions on bishops which outlines what canonical options are available to bishops when a retired bishop resigns or is removed “due to sexual misconduct with adults or grave negligence of office, or where subsequent to his resignation he was found to have so acted or failed to act.”
- Establishing an independent third-party reporting system to accept abuse allegations confidentially, by phone or online. A more detailed proposal for the third-party reporting system, including financial and structural elements, is in the planning process. The reporting system would begin no later than May 31, 2020 but bishops are hoping it can be available sooner. It’s important to note that anyone who has suffered sexual abuse should not wait for the national reporting system to be in place. Survivors can contact local civil authorities to file a report as soon as possible and may also report to Church authorities by existing means, including contacting Victim Asisstance Coordinator, Mary Beth Pacuska at (570) 862-7551 or Vicar General Monsignor Thomas M. Muldowney at (570) 207-2269.
These efforts are the latest in a series of steps the Diocese of Scranton and the Church has taken to respond to the sin of sexual abuse.