A Statement of Episcopal Commitment
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
November 13, 2002
In the preamble to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young
People, we pledge that we (bishops) will respond to the demands of the
Charter in a way that manifests our accountability to God, to God’s
people and to one another. Without at all diminishing the importance of
broader accountability, this statement focuses on the accountability which
flows from our episcopal communion and fraternal solidarity, a moral responsibility
we have with and for each other.
While bishops are ordained primarily for their diocese, we are called
as well to protect the unity and to promote the common discipline of the
whole Church (Canon 392). Participating together in the college of bishops,
we are responsible to act in a manner that reflects both effective and
affective collegiality, including fraternal support, fraternal challenge
and fraternal correction.
In a spirit of collegiality and fraternity, while respecting the legitimate
rights of bishops who are directly responsible to the Holy See, we commit
ourselves to the following:
- Within each of our provinces, we will assist each other to interpret
correctly and implement, within our respective jurisdictions, the Charter
for the Protection of Children and Young People, always respecting Church
law and striving to reflect the Gospel.
- In particular, we acknowledge our mistakes in the past when some bishops
have transferred, from one assignment to another, priests who had abused
minors. We recognize our role in the suffering this has caused. We apologize
for it. As we expressed in the Charter, we “take responsibility
for dealing with this problem strongly, consistently, and effectively
in the future.”
- In cases of an allegation of sexual abuse of minors by bishops, we
will apply the requirements of the Charter also to ourselves, respecting
always Church law as it applies to bishops. In such cases, the Metropolitan
will be informed when an allegation has been made against a bishop (the
senior suffragan bishop will be informed when an allegation has been
made against a Metropolitan).
- In cases of financial demands for settlements involving allegations
of any sexual misconduct by bishops, the Metropolitan will be informed
(the senior suffragan bishop will be informed when such a demand has
been made regarding a Metropolitan).
- Within each of our provinces, as an expression of collegiality, including
fraternal support, fraternal challenge and fraternal correction, we
will engage in ongoing mutual reflection upon the exercise of our episcopal
ministry and upon our commitment to holiness of life.
In two years, this Statement of Episcopal Commitment will be reviewed
by the Ad Hoc Committee on Bishops’ Life and Ministry.