NEWTON, Mass., June 17, 2011 – United States bishops failed to address fundamental flaws in their Charter to Protect Children and Young People during their spring meeting in Seattle, Wash., earlier this week, according to Dan Bartley, president of Voice of the Faithful, the worldwide Catholic Church reform organization.
The bishops did not address the effectiveness of the charter’s audits of clergy sexual abuse allegations, nor specific sanctions for bishops who do not follow the charter’s mandates. “The 2002 charter is the bishops’ primary tool for preventing and handling clergy sexual abuse of children,” Bartley said, “but clearly, as seen from events like the grand jury investigations in Philadelphia, the charter has been ineffective, and the bishops failed again in Seattle to address some of its basic flaws.”
During its meeting June 16, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops voted 187-5 to amend the charter to agree more closely with Vatican instructions such as including child pornography as a crime against church law and stating that abuse of the mentally retarded is equivalent to child abuse.
“Unfortunately, these changes do not go nearly far enough to protect children or hold violators of the charter, including bishops, accountable,” Bartley said, and he reiterated several specific recommendations VOTF made in April to USCCB’s National Review Board and Office of Child & Youth Protection. These recommendations include:
- Amending the charter to mandate specific disciplinary action for future charter violations;
- Making audits more effective by allowing unrestricted access to priests’ personnel files;
- Ensuring diocesan review boards are completely independent of a bishop’s influence and possess necessary expertise; and
- Insulating victims in diocesan victim assistance programs from chancery officials, diocesan law firms and insurance companies.
“The bishops in Seattle failed to take advantage of a perfect opportunity to demonstrate to abuse victims, Catholics in general and the world at large that they understand the magnitude of the damage caused by clergy sexual abuse and to make a clear statement that violations of the charter will not be tolerated,” Bartley said. “Horrendously, it appears as though protecting the reputation of the Church will continue to take precedence over protecting innocent children.”
Voice of the Faithful
Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and shape structural change within the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.
Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, 617-291-3495 Cell