June 9, 2019
By David Crary
As the Roman Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal grows ever wider in scope in the U.S., bishops convene for a national meeting in Baltimore on Tuesday under heavy pressure to acknowledge their oversight failures and give a larger role to lay Catholics and secular authorities in confronting the crisis.
The pressure comes not only from longtime critics of the church’s response to clergy sex abuse, but also from insiders who now voice doubts that the bishops are capable of handling the crisis on their own.
“My biggest concern is that it’s going to end up being bishops overseeing bishops,” Francesco Cesareo, chairman of a national sex-abuse review board set up by the bishops, told Catholic News Service. “If that’s the case, it’s going to be very difficult for the laity to feel any sense of confidence that anything has truly changed.”
Events of the past year have created unprecedented challenges for the U.S. bishops. Many dioceses have become targets of state investigations since a Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse.
In Baltimore, the bishops will be guided by a groundbreaking new law issued by Pope Francis on May 9. It requires priests and nuns worldwide to report clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups by their superiors to church authorities. It also calls for any claim of sexual misconduct or cover-up against a bishop to be reported to the Vatican and a supervisory bishop in the U.S.