Four New England states launch third-party reporting system for bishops
The U.S. bishops gave themselves until next spring to implement a new nationwide, third-party reporting system for complaints of misconduct against bishops, but at least one region has already launched its own confidential website and toll-free number for such reports.
But victims' groups and at least one attorney are skeptical about the new system, citing a lack of mandated lay involvement
The bishops of the Boston Province — which includes the Boston Archdiocese and dioceses in four states: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine — announced the new system Aug. 14. It includes a website and toll-free number operated by an outside firm, not directly by any of the dioceses or through their websites or intranets.
"The province determined it wanted to move ahead sooner while the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops designs and develops the national third-party system," Terrence Donilon, secretary for communications and public affairs for the Boston Archdiocese, told NCR in an email interview.
"The bishops from the province met earlier this summer [and] decided to act now rather than wait," he said. "The USCCB is still moving forward with the development of a national reporting system, and we expect to transition to the new system at the appropriate time."
Both the national and New England systems are a response to Pope Francis' call for "public, stable and easily accessible systems" for reporting of abuse allegations in his apostolic letter Vos Estis Lux Mundi ("You are the light of the world"), released motu proprio (by his own accord) May 9.
That document mandates priests or members of religious orders to report suspicions of abuse or cover-up, including by bishops, and requires every Catholic diocese to create procedures for such reporting by June 1, 2020. The U.S. bishops passed a plan for a nationwide third-party system at their June meeting.
The Boston Province system allows anonymous reporting or with identification. Reports may be about personal misconduct by a cardinal, bishop or auxiliary bishop of the seven dioceses, including "allegations of sexual abuse, other criminal conduct, personal misconduct which is not criminal, or gross negligence in the function of their ministry," according to the website.
The system reflects the so-called "metropolitan plan," in that allegations are forwarded to the senior bishop in a geographic region, or "metropolitan" bishop, according to the site. The Boston Province's metropolitan is the archbishop of Boston, currently Cardinal Sean O'Malley.
Any criminal allegations will be forwa...