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Allentown bishop pleased by adoption of abuse accountability measures for Catholic leaders

Allentown Bishop Alfred Schlert said he welcomes the new bishop accountability standards ratified by the members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at their meeting in Baltimore.The standards will create a confidential third-party system — using a toll-free phone line and an internet site operated by an outside vendor — to report sexual abuse or coverups by bishops. They also recommend, but do not mandate, lay involvement in investigations of such cases.About 300 members of the conference have been meeting in Baltimore for three days to discuss how they will hold themselves accountable in cases of abuse and coverup.”I was pleased to vote in favor of the proposals, and look forward to their implementation,” Schlert said in a statement Thursday morning. “The strong will of the bishops to hold themselves accountable was shown by the near-unanimous votes in favor of all the measures.”Schlert said last year that he holds himself accountable and welcomes “independent and objective scrutiny as I work to fulfill my grave responsibility to prevent abuse and keep children safe.”The vote brings the bishops in line with the demands of a papal document issued in May — Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”) — which mandates clergy report sexual abuse or cover-up to church authorities, including cases involving bishops or cardinals.For incidents involving high-ranking clerics, the metropolitan archbishop — for Allentown, the archbishop of Philadelphia ― would conduct the investigation. In cases where an archbishop is accused, the task would fall to the second-ranking bishop.The proposal does not specify that such reports must go to civil authorities. But, like every conference proposal dealing with sex abuse this week, it is subordinate to the papal document, which stipulated that provisions must comport with state laws, “particularly those concerning any reporting obligations to the competent civil authorities.”The new regulations follow a Pennsylvania grand jury report’s revelations last year that more than 300 priests in six dioceses, including Allentown, had abused more than 1,000 children over seven decades. But they come some 17 years after the clergy sex abuse scandals first erupted in the U.S.The idea for a third-party reporting system is not new. The bishops were prepared to discuss and possibly vote on a similar one at their meeting in November in Baltimore. But Pope Francis directed the conference to take no definitive actions until after he could meet during the winter with the national heads of the church from around the world.The Baltimore Sun contributed to this report.
Source: Morningcall

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