U.S. bishops urged to be vigilant, never complacent, in stopping abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo/Sean Gallagher, The Criterion

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INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) — Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National
Review Board, urged the U.S. bishops June 14 during their spring meeting in Indianapolis to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and
supporting victims of abuse “at the forefront” of their
ministry.

He said
sexual abuse of minors by clergy is “not a thing of past” and
stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not “let
complacency set in” in their efforts to stop it.

The review
board is a group working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address and prevent
sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. by clergy and other church personnel.

Cesareo
pointed out there was still work to be done in this area, but he also praised
the bishops for what they’ve accomplished and stressed that dioceses in the United
States are among the safest places for children and are also models for rest of
the world.

In his
report to the bishops, he presented some of the key points of the recently
issued 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic
Church’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

The report
— based on audits conducted between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016 — shows
that 1,232 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy came forward with 1,318
clerical abuse allegations in 132 Catholic dioceses and eparchies. The
allegations represent reports of abuse that occurred from the 1940s to the
present.

The
review board chair said he was pleased with the high number of dioceses
participating in the audit, noting that only two did not participate, down from
six the previous year. He said all dioceses have indicated that they will
participate in the next audit.

The
value of participating in the audit “can’t be overemphasized,” he said.

One weak
spot he noted in the audit process is the overall lack of parish participation, which
he urged bishops to do something about to provide full transparency.

Cesareo,
president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, stressed that the
review board wants to help the Catholic Church by providing tools to implement
the charter and even to work on improving the charter by making it more
specific.

Cardinal Daniel N.
DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops, has appointed four new
members to serve on the review board. The new members, announced June 14, are: Amanda Callanan, director of communications
for the Claremont Institute, a California-based think tank; Suzanne Healy, victims
assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2007-2016; Dr.
Christopher McManus, who practices internal medicine and is an active member of
the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; and Eileen
Puglisi, former director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young
People in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.

Cesareo will
continue to chair the review board until his term expires in 2020.

Prior to
his presentation to the bishops, Margaret Simonson, chair of the U.S. bishops’
National Advisory Council, a group
of laypeople who advise the bishops, gave her report.

She said the council supported several
items on the bishops’ agenda for their June 14-15 meeting, particularly discussion
about religious liberty, which she said was so important in “this
particular time in history.”

She also said the council supported the “Mass of Prayer and Penance” being celebrated in the early evening June 14 for survivors of sexual abuse
within the church, the discussion of revised guidelines for people with
disabilities and an update on the upcoming convocation for Catholic leaders
taking place in Orlando, Florida, July1-4.

Simonson, chancellor of
the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, also suggested the USCCB take up the following
action items:

— Provide
a new user-friendly website.

— Offer
more resources for Catholics to promote religious liberty.

She said
the council was “blessed to serve the bishops” in the work they do.

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Source: Catholic News

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