WASHINGTON (November 13, 2002) -- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) today approved the recently proposed revisions to its application to the Holy See for changes in church law in the United States to provide for the protection of all children, for reaching out and supporting victims of abuse, and for dealing stringently with abusers in the church.
Bishops of the United States were meeting at their regularly scheduled semi-annual meeting to discuss a variety of critical issues to the Church in America.
The application to the Vatican (called Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priest and Deacons was submitted in June 2002 and was revised in October 2002 by a committee (the Mixed Commission) comprised of four U.S. bishops and four representatives of the Vatican. Having accepted, as a conference, the revisions proposed by the Mixed Commission, the revised document will be re-submitted to the Vatican, under the expectation of approval from the Holy See for the Essential Norms to become the particular law for the church in the United States.
The Essential Norms provides church sanction and support for the complementary implementation of the USCCB's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a national framework to address this issue for all U.S. Catholic dioceses which was approved by the bishops in June 2002, which is already being implemented. The Essential Norms brings the Charter provisions relating to procedures for handling allegations against priests into conformance with universal law of the church.
Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, Bishop of Belleville, Illinois and President of the USCCB, said, "The USCCB's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the Church in the United States last spring was a welcome milestone in our continuing effort to cooperate with our priests and with our church members to ensure that all our children are protected from harm. As we anticipate final approval of the Essential Norms, we will have the further reassurance that we will have procedures consistent with the full demands of both civil and church law. We will have the certainty that we can move forward in justice and compassion as a real community of clergy and laity."
Substantial steps have been undertaken over the past several months to implement the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Revisions to the Essential Norms as proposed by the Mixed Commission and approved today by the convened bishops provide procedural clarification and strengthening to the Charter.