Archbishop William E. Lori sent the following message to the people of the Archdiocese of Baltimore July 23, 2020:
Dear Friends in Christ,
I write to provide an important update on an issue that remains of paramount importance to the Church: our commitment to protecting children and all those we serve from the scourge of sexual abuse or harassment. This commitment demands that we continually scrutinize our efforts to ensure accountability, transparency, and stringent protocols are in place at every level of the Archdiocese.
In support of these efforts, the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith recently released clear step-by-step guidelines – applicable across dioceses worldwide – for how bishops, religious superiors and canon lawyers are supposed to handle accusations of alleged abuse by clerics against minors. This is another important step forward in demonstrating the Church’s universal commitment to protecting children and reporting abuse transparently.
Above all, the past misconduct of those at the highest levels of authority in the Church has clearly demonstrated the need for stricter measures of accountability specifically applicable to bishops. The long-awaited report of the Vatican on Theodore McCarrick will likely shed further light on the importance of putting these measures into place and possible further action that can be taken by the Church. I would like to remind you of the measures that have already been implemented in response to Pope Francis’ apostolic letter, Vox estis lux mundi. You may recall that in June 2019 the U.S. bishops approved directives that led to the creation of an online mechanism, www.reportbishopabuse.org, for reporting sexual misconduct or interference in an investigation by a bishop.
A “Qualified Lay Person” has been identified to receive these reports in each diocese; Mr. Terrence Sheridan, former Baltimore County Police Chief and former Superintendent of the Maryland State Police, serves in this role for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. For a detailed summary of the archdiocesan protocols for receiving and investigating reports received through this channel, see here.
The Archdiocese also uses a similar independent, third-party hotline platform developed by EthicsPoint, through which volunteers, parishioners, vendors and other interested parties are able to report concerns about suspected financial, professional and personal misconduct of Church personnel. As always of course, any report involving child sexual abuse should be reported immediately to law enforcement, and to the Archdiocese on the “Report Misconduct” tab on the archdiocesan main website, www.archbalt.org.
While there is not sufficient space here to list all of the other accountability measures that are in place in the Archdiocese, I would like to briefly highlight a few more below. I encourage you to become familiar with the material available on our website at www.archbalt.org/accountability, and welcome reactions and constructive suggestions for strengthening our efforts:
- The Independent Review Board, comprised mainly of lay individuals, continues to review all allegations of child sexual abuse by church personnel and to recommend actions to be taken.
- Since 2002, the Archdiocese has maintained an updated list of priests and brothers who have served in the Archdiocese and have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, which includes a description of their past assignments in the Archdiocese.
- All seminarians receive rigorous psychological screening and thorough training on child protection and reporting policies, including clear channels for reporting sexual harassment on the part of colleagues or those in a position of authority.
- The Board of Financial Administration, comprised primarily of lay professionals in the fields of accounting, investments, education, engineering, legal and insurance, serves as a “check and balance” to ensure appropriate fiscal practices by the Archbishop and the Archdiocese.
- In August 2019 the Archbishop created the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, comprised of 13 lay parishioners representing the 10 geographical regions of the Archdiocese and the African American, Hispanic and young adult communities. The members provide honest input and advice to the Archbishop on matters of importance to the lay faithful of the Archdiocese.
In closing, please know that I carry daily in my heart the justifiable anger, anguish, and confusion so many in our Church continue to feel, whether they were personally harmed by or simply witnesses to the past failures of Catholic bishops and priests. I ask you to join me in praying that the redeeming love of our Lord Jesus Christ will grace us with the wisdom to discern the steps we must continue to take to bring healing and restored trust to the people of God.
Faithfully in Christ,
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
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