FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CNS) — Cautioning against complacency in carrying out the requirements of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” the chairman of the National Review Board urged the country’s bishops to “never waver” in their commitment to protect minors and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.
Francesco Cesareo said in a report during the spring general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops June 13, that auditors preparing the 15th annual report on the implementation of the charter found signs of complacency in carrying out the charter in some dioceses and eparchies.
Released June 1, the report detailed audits of compliance with the charter in U.S. dioceses and eparchies conducted between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
While progress is being made as the number of allegations during the period declined from the two previous years, he cautioned the bishops to remain vigilant.
“Despite the progress we have made in the church and the ongoing efforts of dioceses, many among the faithful and in society at large question the commitment of the church, and in particular, the bishops, in addressing the sexual abuse of children,” he told the assembly.
“This responsibility must compel you to never waver in your commitment to protect the most vulnerable, offer outreach and healing to victims/survivors of abuse, and defend the life and dignity of the human person,” Cesareo said. “There is no room for complacency in this fight to protect our children, young people and vulnerable adults.”
He cited examples from the audit that found dioceses not completing background checks in a timely manner and poor record-keeping that could allow unscreened individuals to interact with children.
Other signs of complacency cited in the report included diocesan oversight of parishes, he said, noting that in some dioceses a high percentage of children did not receive safe environment training.
Cesareo said some dioceses omitted revisions of the charter made in 2011 in their policies regarding the reporting of sexual abuse. He also said recommendations from previous annual reports or in letters offering improvements to parishes were not implemented.
He called for the bishops to carry out the requirements of the charter and recommendations for improvement by the National Review Board.
“If child and youth protection and the support of victims/survivors are core values of the church, every effort must be made to ensure adequate resources — financial, personnel and time — are dedicated to creating a culture of protection and healing,” Cesareo said.
“The recommendations of the auditors must be taken seriously by each bishop, and concrete steps must be taken to protect both the children you safeguard and your dioceses as a whole. You cannot afford to waver in your commitment to your ‘Promise to Protect and Pledge to Heal,'” he said.
The review board chairman thanked the bishops for their support of the body’s work. He said the work already being done by the Catholic Church has raised the level of attention to sexual abuse in organizations and institutions across society, adding that the bishops “have an opportunity to truly model and lead society.”