NRB: Change in church's culture, including bishops, needed to end abuse

IMAGE: CNS photo illustration/Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register

By Mark Pattison

(CNS) — More committees are not the answer to stop the abuse of children and
vulnerable adults by clergy, said an Aug. 28 statement by the National Review
Board, which is charged with addressing clerical sexual misconduct in the
Catholic Church.

needs to happen is a genuine change in the church’s culture, specifically among
the bishops themselves,” the board said. “This evil has resulted from a loss of
moral leadership and an abuse of power that led to a culture of silence that
enabled these incidents to occur.

fear, and the misuse of authority created an environment that was taken
advantage of by clerics, including bishops, causing harm to minors,
seminarians, and those most vulnerable,” the NRB said. “The culture of silence
enabled the abuse to go on virtually unchecked. Trust was betrayed for the
victims/survivors of the abuse; the entire body of Christ was betrayed in turn
by these crimes and the failure to act.”

The purpose
of the NRB, established in 2002 as part of the Charter for the Protection of
Children and Young People, is to work collaboratively with the U.S. bishops’ Committee
for the Protection of Children and Young People in preventing the sexual abuse
of minors in the United States by persons in the service of the church.

even the charter that created the NRB is wanting, the board’s statement said.

members of the NRB have on numerous occasions pointed out the weaknesses in the
charter given its deliberate ambiguity and its lack of inclusion of bishops. During
the most recent revision process of the charter, many of the recommendations
made by the NRB to strengthen the charter were not incorporated for a variety
of reasons. These recommendations need to be reconsidered in light of the
current situation, as well as the inclusion of bishops in the charter,” the NRB

National Review Board has for several years expressed its concern that bishops
not become complacent in their response to sexual abuse by the clergy. The
recent revelations make it clear that the problem is much deeper.”

statement said, “The episcopacy needs to be held accountable for these past
actions, and in the future, for being complicit, either directly or indirectly,
in the sexual abuse of the vulnerable. Holding bishops accountable will require
an independent review into the actions of the bishop when an allegation comes
to light.”

statement added, “The NRB also believes that the statement of Episcopal
Commitment is ineffective and needs to be revised into a meaningful, actionable

particular, the notion of ‘fraternal correction’ must outline concrete steps
that will be taken when a bishop is alleged to have committed sexual abuse or
has failed to respond immediately and without hesitation when a cleric is
accused of sexual abuse,” it said.

ensure that bishops undertake their obligation to act decisively when they have
knowledge of incidences of sexual abuse committed by the clergy or their
brother bishops, there must be substantive formation of newly appointed bishops
on their responsibility as moral leaders within the church, especially in
responding to sexual abuse, something which is currently lacking.

offered itself as the body with which to entrust an independent review of
allegations against bishops, as outlined by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of
Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. bishops.

NRB, composed exclusively of lay members, would be the logical group to be
involved in this task,” it said. “An anonymous whistleblower policy, as is
found in corporations, higher education and other institutions in both the
public and private sector, that would be independent of the hierarchy with
participation by the laity, perhaps the NRB, who would report allegations to
the local bishop, local law enforcement, the nuncio and Rome, needs to be
established immediately.”

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