U.S. Bishops' Statement on Response to Clergy Sex Abuse

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WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 14, 2002 (Zenit.org).- What follows is a statement from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) regarding the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People:



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:

1. 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.

2. 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."

3. 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).

4. 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).

5. 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. The text can be found at (nccbuscc.org).