~ Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service
National Review Board chairman Francesco Cesareo offered the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore a series of recommendations that he said will strengthen the church’s response to the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis.
The recommendations made June 11 during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ spring general assembly in Baltimore included a call for a greater role for
laity investigating allegations of abuse or reaction to reports of abuse against bishops.
Cesareo said that National Review Board members recommend a thorough review of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and a revision in the audit process regarding diocesan implementation of the charter, which governs the church’s response to clergy abuse allegations.
Strong measure are necessary to show that while progress has been made since the charter’s adoption in 2002, the bishops would demonstrate that they are serious in their response to clergy abuse in response to the mistrust and serious questions laypeople still harbor.
Cesareo stressed to the bishops the need to carry out what Pope Benedict XVI described as the laity’s co-responsibility to help build the church.
He told the Catholic News Service that co-responsibility means “together we can have a role to play for the well-being of the church.”
Cesareo also admitted that he has used strong and firm language in delivering the review board’s recommendations “to show the urgency of the situation and that we can’t just keep pushing this down the road.”
In his address to the assembly, Cesareo said that the audit is a means for the bishops to establish their credibility with laypeople.
“A strengthened audit would provide a means for improving your dioceses’ existing methods to protect and heal,” Cesareo said. “Virtually all your dioceses, including those where problems came to light under the microscope of the media and attorney generals, have easily passed the audit for years since the bar is so low. Now is the time to raise the bar on compliance to ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated.”
Casareo also recommended that the charter “should be revised immediately to explicitly include bishops and demand for greater accountability.”
“You have a great opportunity,” Casareo said, “to lead by example and help show diocese and episcopal conferences around the world not only how important it is for lay involvement to ensure greater accountability and transparency, but also how laity and the episcopacy can be co-responsible for the church’s well-being.”