In response to a 2018 report from a Pennsylvania grand jury detailing years of abuse by Catholic priests, the Archdiocese of Baltimore is establishing a third-party system for reporting allegations of sexual assault and misconduct by members of the church, Archbishop William E. Lori announced Tuesday morning.
Known as Ethics Point, the system allows users to submit information through a separate website, an 888 number or a link on the Archdiocese’s site, which is then forwarded to the Archdiocese’s Independent Review Board staffed by two retired judges.
“There must be a ‘zero tolerance’ policy and approach for dealing with any priest, bishop, employee or volunteer who violates their office and harms in any way a young person or adult,” Lori said in a statement.
The Associated Press reports the church has turned over 50,000 internal files to law enforcement officials investigating child sexual abuse by the clergy.
According to a report in The Sun, the church is also hiring more lay people in its administration, updating child protection policies and requiring bishops to sign a code of conduct.
Today’s announcement comes two months after the president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops said at the organization’s conference here in Baltimore that, at the insistence of the Vatican, they would not vote on steps to address sexual abuse in the wake of the Pennsylvania report, the paper reported.
Church leaders are scheduled to depart for Rome next month for a meeting with Pope Francis to discuss “accountability for bishops who are accused of abuse, misconduct or the mishandling of such allegations against priests and others working on behalf of the Church,” the Archdiocese said.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s report, released in August of last year, revealed allegations of more than 300 “predator priests” in six Pennsylvania dioceses abused more than 1,000 child victims. Most notable to Baltimore, the report alleged Cardinal William Keeler, the former head of the Catholic Church in the region, assisted in covering up instances of abuse while serving in Harrisburg, starting in 1979.
The grand jury accused Keeler of “criminal inaction” and outlined two instances where he had knowledge of priests sexually abusing young girls and did not bring them to light.
In a a 2002 letter to Baltimore’s Catholic community accompanying a list of the names of “credibly accused” priests, Keeler wrote, “The simple, painful truth is that the Church did not go far enough to protect children from sexual abuse,” and asked “forgiveness for my mistakes.”
Following the release of the report last year, Lori said Keeler’s words are now “even more revealing.”
Survivors can file reports through ethicspoint.com, by calling (888) 572-8026 or going to archbalt.org and clicking “Ethics Hotline.”
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