Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Peace be with you.
Last week I attended the meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Going to the meeting, I was hopeful that we bishops would approve significant measures to ensure the accountability of bishops. The Conference had committed to three goals last summer and produced draft proceedings to pursue these goals that were to be brought to a vote at last week’s meeting.
I fully supported these measures and planned to vote in favor of them. Frustration and anger erupted among us at the beginning of our meeting when we were informed that the Holy See had insisted that we do not vote on these measures pending an international meeting on the sexual abuse crisis to take place in Rome in February. My brother bishops and I were deeply concerned about the delay and wanted to act now.
The goals to which my brother bishops and I are still committed are:
- To call for a full investigation of the allegations against the former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and how he was allowed to move from diocese to diocese and become a cardinal.
- To make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier.
- To develop an independent means, with substantial lay involvement, of holding bishops accountable.
The draft procedures to address these goals, which we were not permitted to bring to a vote at this time, were:
- Standards of Accountability for Bishops, which would cover sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct by a bishop.
- The establishment of an independent, third-party reporting system to receive complaints against bishops in the United States. Complaints could be made by phone or online.
- The establishment of a special national commission comprised primarily of lay persons for the reception and preliminary investigation of complaints given to the reporting system. The results of the investigation would then be forwarded to the Papal Nuncio, since only the Holy Father has the authority to discipline bishops.
Despite not being able to move forward as we had planned, hope dawned in light of the discussion among the bishops as the meeting progressed. These were the best conversations that we have had at a bishops’ meeting since I became a bishop.
It was clear from our discussions that we bishops are indeed committed to providing a means to ensure the accountability of bishops. Though we had hoped to act now, the delay until after the international meeting on this matter bears the promise of addressing the problem on a global scale. The work that we have done and continue to do, by the grace of God, will bear fruit in the United States and beyond. Know that I and my brother bishops are committed to act, and we intend to do so as soon as the Holy See allows us to vote on these measures.
Moving forward, our tasks include:
- Finalizing a process for investigating complaints against bishops, which are to be received via an independent, third-party reporting system.
- Finalizing the Standards of Accountability for Bishops.
- Finalizing the Protocol for Removing a Bishop.
- Establishing national guidelines for the publication of the names of those clerics with substantiated allegations of abuse.
- Supporting the timely investigation into the situation surrounding the former Cardinal McCarrick. On October 6, the Holy See announced its investigation of this matter, and at the meeting we were informed that the four dioceses in the United States where he served are in various stages of their own investigation.
You may learn more about the details of our commitment to work on these matters by reading the statement of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, conference president: http://usccb.org/news/2018/18-187.cfm
Most importantly, we must remember those who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse. At the meeting, two victims/survivors addressed us, shared their experience and urged us to act. On behalf of the Church, I apologize to all those who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse, and renew my commitment to reach out and bring Christ’s peace and healing. The priests of the diocese and I have committed to make the first Friday of Lent an annual day of prayer and penance for all those harmed by clergy.
Additionally, the Diocese of Marquette encourages individuals to report clergy, employee or volunteer sexual abuse of minors and others – no matter when the abuse occurred. For more than 15 years the diocese has had a “hotline” to Victims Assistance Coordinators for anyone to report abuse.
Individuals are encouraged to contact local law enforcement authorities and the Diocese of Marquette by calling one of the Victim Assistance Coordinators: Stephen Lynott at (844) 495-4330 or Diane Tryan at (844) 694-4362 or by writing to:
Victims Assistance Coordinator
c/o Catholic Social Services of the UP
1100 Ludington St. Suite 401, Escanaba MI 49829
Please mark the letter "Personal and Confidential" and indicate in your letter how you wish to be contacted (by phone or by letter).
Complaints of abuse, misconduct and negligence on the part of bishops may be reported to the Papal Nuncio.
The Most Rev. Christophe Pierre
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
3339 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-3610
As we approach our national holiday of Thanksgiving, may God bless you and your loved ones.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend John F. Doerfler, STD, JCL
Bishop of Marquette