New England Bishops Institute Yet Another System to Handle Abuse Allegations Against Bishops, SNAP Responds

Church officials from the Boston Province have instituted a new “independent” system for reporting allegations against bishops. We believe that rather than institute new systems for these kind of reports, people should be encouraged to make reports directly to police and prosecutors instead.

Since 2002, bishops have promised that “fraternal correction” would help ensure that reports of child abuse were taken seriously, routed to the proper places, and that zero tolerance would be enforced. Yet as we have seen, these internal church systems and procedures have not been enough, and what reforms and discipline that we have seen has come from secular officials, not religious ones.

This move by bishops from the Boston Province seems to us to be yet another promise to self-police. The EthicsPoint system will divorce the bishops from the process of investigating themselves, but it remains an internal system, with reports routed to the Apostolic Nuncio instead of police.

Bishops do not conceal or ignore cases of sexual violence because there is a lack of processes or mechanisms. It is hard to see how this move by the church officials in New England will do anything to change that.

It is notable that this news comes the same day that criminal charges appear to have been recommended against former Cheyenne bishop Joseph Hart, charges that were only possible because the current bishop, Steven Biegler, gave information to secular authorities and encouraged them to investigate.

We hope that bishops around the country will choose to follow in Bishop Biegler’s footsteps.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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