Service to Report Sexual Misconduct Involving U.S. Bishops Launched

May 18, 2020

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In May 2019, Pope Francis released his apostolic letter You are the light of the world (Vos estis lux mundi) to address the issue of sexual abuse and bishop accountability in the global Catholic Church. Vos estis calls upon the provincial (formerly called metropolitan) archbishops to undertake the responsibilities for receiving and assessing reports involving bishops that pertain to sexual abuse and related misconduct. In June 2019, the bishops of the United States approved the implementation plan for carrying out the directives of the Holy Father.

The U.S. bishops created the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR). The service is operated by Convercent, Inc., an independent, third-party entity that provides intake services to private institutions for reports of sensitive topics such as sexual harassment through a secure, confidential and professional platform. Individuals may go to ReportBishopAbuse.org in order to make a report or call 800-276-1562.

The metropolitan archdiocese in our province is the Archdiocese of Dubuque. If an allegation is received against a bishop in our region, it will be forwarded to the local metropolitan archbishop (Dubuque Archbishop Michael Jackels), who will undertake the responsibility of initially assessing the report.

The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service allows for individuals to relay to Church authorities any reports of a U.S. Catholic bishop who has:

  • Forced someone to perform or to submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority;
  • Performed sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person;
  • Produced, exhibited, possessed, or distributed child pornography, or recruited or induced a minor or a vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions;
  • Or, a diocesan or eparchial bishop, or a cleric overseeing a diocese/eparchy in the absence of a diocesan or eparchial bishop, who has intentionally interfered with a civil or church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committee by another cleric or religious.

The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service does not replace existing reporting systems for complaints against priests, deacons, religious or laity. CBAR was designed to respond only to complaints against bishops for issues related to sexual misconduct.

The reporting of sexual misconduct by anyone in diocesan ministry who is not a bishop, such as priests, deacons, religious brothers and sisters, or lay persons working or volunteering for the Church should continue to be handled in accordance with the Des Moines diocese’s child protection policy (dmdiocese.org) and with proper civil authorities. For more information on the reporting service for bishops and how it works, please visit ReportBishopAbuse.org.

While the mandate by Pope Francis in Vos estis echoes many of the practices that the Catholic Church in the United States has already implemented since 2002 with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, this new order applies to the bishops and to the worldwide Catholic Church, making clear the pope’s concern of the issue of sexual abuse in the Church at a global level.