Reports system in place to receive allegations against U.S. bishops
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2020 (Omaha, NE) – The new national system to report bishops for sexual misconduct or their mishandling of cases is operational today in the United States.
The Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting service (CBAR) is an outcome of Pope Francis’ 2019 apostolic letter, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), which addresses sexual abuse and bishop accountability in the global Catholic Church.
Vos estis calls upon metropolitan archbishops to undertake the responsibilities for receiving and assessing reports alleging sexual abuse bishops and related misconduct.
The reporting service is operated by Convercent, Inc., an independent group that provides intake services to private institutions for reports of sensitive topics such as sexual harassment through a secure, confidential platform.
With the new system, individuals can submit a complaint at ReportBishopAbuse.org, archomaha.org/reporting-abuse-by-bishops/, or call (800) 276-1562. The system is not a substitute for reporting to law enforcement officials.
When a report is received, it will be forwarded to the local metropolitan archbishop who will undertake the responsibility of initially assessing the report. The metropolitan then forwards the report to the pope’s U.S. delegate for further evaluation.
The Catholic Church throughout the world is divided into provinces. There are 32 provinces in the United States. Each province is made up of dioceses that are geographically grouped together. A province has one archdiocese plus one or more dioceses. The dioceses in the province are called suffragan dioceses. The archbishop of the archdiocese in a province is called the metropolitan, who presides over the province.
Archbishop George J. Lucas of the Archdiocese of Omaha is the metropolitan who presides over the Nebraska province which includes the suffragan dioceses of Lincoln and Grand Island.
CBAR does not replace existing reporting systems for complaints against priests, deacons, religious or laity. 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 will continue to be handled in accordance with the diocese’s child protection policy and with proper civil authorities. Anyone in the archdiocese who would have a reason to bring forward information about abuse are encouraged to contact law enforcement and Mary Beth Hanus, the archdiocese’s director of victim outreach and prevention, at 402-827-3798.
In carrying out an investigation against a bishop, dioceses are required to appoint a qualified lay person to assist with the investigation.
Nebraska’s three bishops have appointed Stephen Patrick O’Meara for this role. A former private practice attorney, O’Meara served five years as chief prosecutor for the FBI-led Omaha Child Exploitation Task Force. He was also an assistant in the Iowa Attorney General office, county attorney, assistant United States Attorney in Iowa and Nebraska, and participated in task forces focused on child abuse-neglect enforcement, drug-violent crime enforcement, gang enforcement, white collar crime enforcement, terrorism enforcement, and human trafficking-child exploitation enforcement.
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.