Third-party hotline for reporting on Catholic bishops is launched
March 28, 2020
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently established a third-party system for reporting and assessing allegations of misconduct and sexual abuse of minors made against current and retired bishops.
The new Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting service, launched March 16, is operated by Convercent Inc., an independent, third-party entity that provides intake services to private institutions for reports of sensitive topics such as sexual harassment through a secure, confidential and professional platform, according to an Archdiocese of Oklahoma City news release.
Individuals may make a report by calling 800-276-1562 or by going to reportbishopabuse.org.
The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting service (CBAR) is for reporting allegations of sexual abuse involving bishops only. The archdiocese of Oklahoma City has an Abuse of Minors Pastoral Response hotline at 720-9878 to report sexual misconduct by anyone in diocesan ministry who is not a bishop — such as priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters or lay persons working or volunteering for the Church.
Archdiocese leaders said the reporting service does not take the place of reporting abuse to law enforcement, and all civil child abuse reporting laws must be followed. Under Oklahoma law, all individuals must report an incident or suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor to civil authorities immediately. If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
In a news release about the third-party reporting system, the victims' advocacy group, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or SNAP, said reports should be made to law enforcement first.
"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," SNAP leaders said in a statement.
Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul S. Coakley addressed the new reporting system in a letter to the archdiocese.
He said the reporting service was established following guidance from Pope Francis’s apostolic letter, Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world).
Coakley said U.S. bishops met in fall 2019 to address the issue of sexual abuse and bishop accountability in the global Catholic Church, and third-party reporting system was created as a result. He said individuals reporting allegations may remain anonymous.
"Though we have made significant progress on many fronts since the 2002 publication of the U.S. bishops’ 'Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,' we needed to extend the same concern to allegations against bishops," Coakley wrote.
The archbishop said the new reporting system is another sign of bishops' commitment to creating and maintaining safe environments for children, vulnerable adults and all parishioners.
"The new reporting service holds us accountable and furthers the transparency that our parishioners demand and deserve," Coakley wrote.
"We continue to express our profound sorrow and most sincere apologies to each person who has ever been a victim of sexual abuse by anyone representing the Church, and for the complicity and negligence of those who failed to respond adequately to reports of abuse. As bishops, we also grieve for the countless faithful, dedicated and generous priests who have faced ridicule and suspicion because of the terrible crimes of their brothers."
Making a report
When a report is received through the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting service, it will be forwarded to the local metropolitan archbishop and a designated lay staff member who will assess the report, the Oklahoma City archdiocese said.
In the province that includes the Oklahoma City archdiocese, the Diocese of Little Rock and the Diocese of Tulsa, the metropolitan archbishop is Coakley.
In the event a report is received concerning the metropolitan archbishop, the report will be forwarded to the senior suffragan bishop, the Most Rev. Anthony B. Taylor, bishop of Little Rock, according to the Oklahoma City archdiocese's news release. The report also will be sent to a member of the bishop’s staff. Taylor is a former priest in the Oklahoma City archdiocese.
The archdiocese said the new reporting service allows for individuals to relay to Church authorities any reports of a U.S. Catholic bishop who has: forced someone to perform or to submit to sexual acts through violence, threat or abuse of authority; performed sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person; produced, exhibited, possessed or distributed child pornography, or recruited or induced a minor or a vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions; or, a diocesan or eparchial bishop, or a cleric overseeing a diocese/eparchy in the absence of a diocesan or eparchial bishop, who has intentionally interfered with a civil or Church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by another cleric or religious.
Meanwhile, in their news release, leaders with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, took issue with the new reporting system being implemented by Catholic dioceses across the country.
"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," SNAP said in its news release.
"We firmly believe that all reports of crimes should first be made to those trained to investigate and prosecute crimes, not religious authorities."