December 14, 2018

Transparency and accountability: Before, during and after Baltimore

(En español)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The last several months have been very difficult for many in the Church, both clergy and laity.

Some have expressed their disappointment with the lack of action taken at the recent fall meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Others have admitted to feeling a bit embarrassed to identify themselves as Catholics to persons of other faith traditions.

To be clear, while sexual abuse has been a problem in the Catholic Church, it is not merely a Catholic Church problem.

Although much of the frustration and anger is understandable, it is also evident that many are simply not aware of what has already been done to address the issue of sexual abuse in the Church.

While we were not able to vote on the various proposed action steps at our meeting in Baltimore, as I have written to many, I do believe that these action steps will prove to be most beneficial not only in the United States, but throughout the world.

The proposed action steps include an independent third-party compliance hotline, Standards of Accountability for Bishops, Protocol for Removed Bishops and the establishment of some type of national or metropolitan lay commission. These will be shared by Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the current USCCB president, at the world meeting of conference presidents with Pope Francis, to be held in Rome in February 2019.

I serve on a committee that prepared one of the proposed action steps, namely, the Standards of Accountability for Bishops. Our time and effort on this document began well before traveling to Baltimore, and included rather lengthy meetings before and during the General Assembly of the bishops’ gathering. I do not believe that our work has been in vain. In fact, I suspect that the work of the U.S. bishops will ultimately have an impact on the universal Church.

While the proposed action steps listed above involve oversight of bishops, many strides have already been made since the policies and procedures of the 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” went into effect in dioceses throughout the United States.

Here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, like most dioceses throughout the U.S., we have relied on lay professionals who serve as Victim Assistance Coordinator and members of a Review Board for all reported cases of sexual abuse in accordance with the 2002 charter.

Any complaints or allegations are received directly by the Victim Assistance Coordinator, who then reports to the civil authorities and gathers information for the Review Board for consideration of credibility. It has been a most effective process, as reflected in our October publication that listed the names of priests who were deemed to have been credibly accused. The last date of alleged abuse taking place, as noted in the published list, was in 1997.

In addition to the efforts noted here, great care has been taken to assure that the archdiocese benefits from two of the finest seminaries in the country. We are blessed to have very sound formation programs at both the Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary, in Indianapolis, and Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in southern Indiana.

Of course, we must remain ever vigilant in seeking ways to improve protection of all persons, formation of future priests and proper oversight of those who serve in the Church. Our primary concerns must always be protecting the innocent, caring for victims and removing those who are harmful to others. As has been made very clear, transparency and accountability are essential.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Charles C. Thompson
Archbishop of Indianapolis

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