November 13, 2018. At this morning’s USCCB Assembly, Vice President Most Reverend José H. Gomez unveiled a third party reporting system for clergy sex abuse claims that had been approved by a leadership committee in September, telling the conference it was not an actionable item requiring their vote.

He went on to describe the system – a toll-free number and internet link intended to gather and transmit claims of sexual abuse of minors, sexual harassment and misconduct with adults, and mishandling of complaints by bishops and cardinals. It was made clear that this system would not investigate the claims, but simply gather information. The investigations will be conducted by a special commission.

Saying “some people think you should go to the Pope directly, but might not know how to reach him,” Gomez shrugged as the audience of bishops burst into laughter, a gesture that could be described as insensitive at best to the thousands of clergy abuse victims, several who, prohibited from entering the conference, watched from their phones outside the venue.

In response to Bishop DiMarzio’s question of whether complaints from anonymous victims would be accepted, Gomez answered yes, but said “an anonymous complaint is never going to go anywhere.” Bishop Trautman, former bishop of Erie, called the system “unjust,” saying “accusations not substantiated or unproven are unjust.” Trautman was criticized in the Pennsylvania grand jury report for his role in allowing Father Chester Gawronski, a known abuser, to remain in ministry for many years.

The presentation of the third-party reporting system was followed by a presentation on the Special Commission. It was clear from the discussion that followed that bishops were most concerned about how the new processes would affect themselves rather than the hundreds of thousands of clergy abuse victims waiting for justice. Bishops Estévez and McManus expressed concerns about how long it would take for bishops to receive the report after it was submitted to the Special Commission. Bishop Brennan suggested that lay people should pay for the commission by submitting to a GoFundMe. Many others expressed that if the allegations were made public in any way, bishops’ reputations would be destroyed.

Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) rejects both the third-party reporting system and the Special Commission as both ultimately place the control of the investigation into the hands of the Vatican rather than law enforcement. If the USCCB is to demonstrate sincerity, they must relinquish all control by urging every parishioner to report all clergy misconduct directly to law enforcement. Law enforcement must be the body making the determination of whether or not the abuse is prosecutable. Furthermore, they should release all documents related to clergy sex abuse to DOJ officials.

Representatives of ECA will join representatives of SNAP for a press conference outside the Waterfront Marriott Hotel at 6:00pm to respond to the day’s events.

Peter Isely
US Spokesperson, Ending Clergy Abuse

Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) is a worldwide organization of survivors and human rights activists whose mission it is to compel the Roman Catholic Church to end clergy abuse, especially child sexual abuse, in order to protect children and to seek justice for victims. ECA demands the end of the Church’s structural mechanism that allows abuse. ECA assembly members represent over 18 countries and 4 continents. –