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Philadelphia Scandal Shows Bishop’s Child Protection Charter Lacks Teeth
In light of the Philadelphia Archdiocese's clergy child sexual abuse scandal, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops must improve the effectiveness of its Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People.
• Amending the charter to mandate specific disciplinary action for future charter violations;
• Making audits more effective, including, for example, unrestricted access to priests’ personnel files;
• Re-configuring diocesan review boards to ensure their complete independence, objectivity and expertise and to remove any conflicts of interest;
• Changing the structure of diocesan victim assistance programs to insulate victims from chancery officials, diocesan law firms and insurance companies;
• Supporting a call for bishops to stop opposing changes in state statutes of limitations that benefit clergy sexual abuse victims; and
• Holding NRB listening sessions nationwide to hear lay Catholics’ reactions to clergy child sexual abuse and its cover-up and their expectations for resolving the scandal.
“Not since 2002, when the clergy sexual abuse crisis in Boston caused Catholics to form Voice of the Faithful, has so much attention been focused on priests in the United States abusing young people and bishops covering up,” Bartley said. “Philadelphia actually is worse than Boston because two successive cardinals, both archbishops of Philadelphia, ignored the charter USCCB developed shortly after Boston to deal with clergy sexual abuse.”
The charter was supposed to help dioceses create a safe environment for children, perform audits and report compliance, Bartley said, but “nine years after the bishops formulated the charter in Dallas, a Philadelphia grand jury showed it to be remarkably ineffective.”
The grand jury reported in February that archdiocesan actions “simply are not the actions of an institution serious about ending sexual abuse of children.” The grand jury found that 37 priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse were still in ministry. Two priests, a former priest and a Catholic school teacher were charged with child rape, and for the first time, a church official was charged with child endangerment for transferring credibly accused priests from parish to parish rather than removing them from ministry.
Teresa Kettelkamp, OCYP executive director, has been quoted as saying the grand jury report “put a cloud” over everything the church is doing to prevent child abuse. The bishops want to know how this could have happened, she has said, and an examination needs to determine whether bishops are following the “spirit and letter” of USCCB’s charter.
Bartley said VOTF has long recognized that diocesan audits are compromised by chanceries self-reporting systems and by diocesan review board members who have operated without either independence or the information necessary for thorough audits.
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About Voice of the Faithful -- Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and shape structural change within the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.