New Reporting System for Bishop Abuse Opens, but a Better Option Exists

This week, American Catholic bishops are touting a new reporting system that can be used by victims and witnesses to report crimes committed by prelates. While giving the public options is usually a good thing, we hope that instead of using this internal Church-run system that victims and witnesses will instead choose to report to police and prosecutors.

The Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service, or CBAR, is yet another attempt by American hierarchs to keep reports of crimes committed by clergy in-house. While CBAR is technically managed by an outside technology company, all reports of wrongdoing are forwarded to a Metropolitan bishop, not professionals in law enforcement. We firmly believe that all reports of crimes should first be made to those trained to investigate and prosecute crimes, not religious authorities.

In an outline of the system, “individuals who file a report also will be encouraged to contact local law enforcement if they believe they have been a victim of a crime.” However, nowhere were reports to police or prosecutors required. Allegations of impropriety will be routed from bishop to bishop and eventually to the Vatican, but nowhere along the way have Catholic officials committed to informing law enforcement. This system is no real reform at all, only more bureaucracy stapled onto the same apparatus that has allowed allegations of sexual abuse to be minimized, ignored, and hidden for decades.

If victims and witnesses want to use this internal reporting system, they should be empowered to do so. At the same time, we hope that they will know to make a report to law enforcement officials first. This is the best way to ensure that crimes are being investigated by professionals, not church bureaucrats.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 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

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant