Catholic Whistleblowers Calls for a Vatican Investigation of U.S. Bishops
Hamilton and Griffin on Rights
January 25, 2016
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) claims a Zero Tolerance policy regarding priests and deacons who have sexually abused a minor or a vulnerable adult. Yet, church documents show otherwise and potential victims could be at risk now.
The USCCB does not exercise the leadership necessary to assure that known sexually abusive priests and deacons are removed from the community and that the community is warned about the sexually abusive priests and deacons. This misrepresentation is deliberate and systemic in nature, and sexually abusive clergy still could be in ministry.
Three stunning realities focus the concern and explain the need for a Vatican investigation.
First, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI changed the church’s statute of limitations so that cases of sexual abuse of a minor or of a vulnerable adult by a priest or a deacon cannot be barred from a church court because of a failure to report the abuse within a prescribed time frame. Moreover, church law provides that such cases can address both the crime as well as the reparation for damages that result from the crime. The USCCB and its member bishops should follow the example of these popes by working to change the states’ statutes of limitations. It’s about protecting minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse, and about protecting their moral right to reparation.
Second, the USCCB established a particular law for the church in the United States with respect to all priests and deacons in the ministry of the church. But, in reality, an important rule within that particular law dilutes the church’s process to identify those allegations of sexual abuse of a minor or of a vulnerable adult by a priest or a deacon that are required by universal church law to be submitted to the Vatican for judicial action. As a result, some priests and deacons who ought to be removed from ministry might still be in ministry, thus continuing to be a danger to minors and vulnerable adults.
Third, the USCCB engages the services of an independent consulting firm to audit local dioceses for compliance with USCCB-established policies and procedures intended to provide a safe environment within the church. Yet, this audit process is flawed, thus furthering the risk of harm rather than providing protection. For example, the USCCB prevents the auditors from verifying that all sexual abuse cases that should be sent to the Vatican actually are sent. Some diocesan bishops or major superiors might not send cases to the Vatican and this would go undetected. Another example is that some diocesan bishops forbid the auditors from conducting onsite parish reviews. The minors and vulnerable adults who need protection are in the parishes, not in the diocesan offices. But, these bishops are able to discard onsite parish audits.
Consequently, Catholic Whistleblowers contends that the USCCB hinders both the removal of sexually abusive priests and deacons from the community and the warning of the community about sexually abusive priests and deacons. And this concern is in the present time, right now, and could mean that minors and vulnerable adults are at risk now and into the future.
In reality, this USCCB behavior helps to demonstrate the need for the establishment of a U.S. Commission on sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
What can you do? Contact the Catholic bishop(s) in your area saying that you know about the flawed USCCB Zero-Tolerance policy and that you support the call for a Vatican investigation.
The National Catholic Reporter published an article about this petition for an investigation. Notice in this article that the USCCB “declined comment on the petition, saying that since it was sent to the Congregation for Bishops, the conference defers to the Vatican on how the questions raised are addressed.” The text of the 13-page petition to the Vatican can be found at the bottom of the NCR article.
Members of the Catholic Whistleblowers Steering Committee who join in this effort are:
Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D., (West Orange, NJ); Rev. Ronald D. Lemmert (Peekskill, NY); Sr. Sally Butler, OP (Brooklyn, NY); Rev. Patrick Winchester Collins, Ph.D. (Douglas, MI); Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish, SNDdeN (New Castle, DE); Sr. Claire Smith, OSU (Bronx, NY); Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, OP, J.C.D. (Vienna, VA); Helen Rainforth, (Lincoln, IL); Rev. James E. Connell, J.C.D. (Milwaukee, WI)