SNAP Proposes Four Action Items for Bishops’ June Meeting
Next week in Baltimore, bishops from across the United States will gather and discuss the future of their Church. We hope they will also be discussing concrete ways to protect children and vulnerable adults from the lifelong harm caused by clergy sexual abuse.
On the first of this month, Pope Francis’ recently-announced edict requiring all church staff to report cases of clergy abuse went into effect. While this move was a step in the right direction, by only requiring them to report internally and not to secular professionals in law enforcement, the Pope’s directive fell short. Now, with this gathering in Baltimore, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo and the rest of America’s bishops have a chance to strengthen these requirements and push forward real changes that will help prevent future abuse.
- First, the bishops can and should require that all church staff to report their suspicions to police and prosecutors in addition to reporting internally. By involving outside investigations, Catholic officials can show that they want to prevent more cover-ups in the church.
- Second, the bishops can and should require that, by the end of the year, every single diocese release a list of publicly accused priests, nuns, brothers, deacons, and any other church staff that have been alleged to have committed sex crimes against children or vulnerable adults. This process first started 17 years ago when the Diocese of Tucson released a list on June 21, 2002, and in the past year approximately half of the dioceses in the United States have released or updated lists of their own. It should not take more than the rest of the year for the remaining dioceses in the country to follow suit.
- Third, the bishops can and should agree to cease any and all efforts – whether by dioceses directly or by Catholic Church-affiliated groups – to lobby against statute of limitations reform. The Church has successfully undercut this needed reform in places like Pennsylvania and South Dakota to the detriment of survivors, parents, and children. Church officials can show that they care more about the safety of their parishioners than protecting their pocketbooks by formally agreeing to cease these lobbying activities.
- Finally, the bishops can and should turn over personnel records, sex abuse files, “secret archives” and “bishop’s archives” over to their state attorney general for investigation. So far, 20 states have begun investigations of clergy abuse and with support from the bishops themselves, that number could climb to 50 by the end of the year.
At the USCCB meeting last fall, U.S. bishops planned to roll out some changes but were stymied at the last minute by officials from the Vatican. We hope that this year those bishops will again try to push forward needed reform and changes, and we urge them to strongly consider these four proposals.
CONTACT: Becky Ianni, SNAP Board Member (703-801-6044, SNAPvirginia@cox.net), Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, firstname.lastname@example.org), Tim Lennon, SNAP President (415-312-5820, email@example.com)
(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)