By Christopher Wells
Bishops in the United States are focusing on the crisis of clerical sexual abuse at their Spring General Assembly, taking place this week in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Specifically, the Bishops are discussing how they will implement new norms established by Pope Francis in the Apostolic Letter Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”). In addition to strengthening requirements to report accusations of abuse, the provisions in Vos estis address how to respond when Bishops themselves are accused either of abuse, or of covering up abuse of minors and vulnerable persons.
Many measures called for by Vos estis are already in effect in the United States, the result of previous attempts to address the abuse crisis. Additionally, the Bishops have proposed making a pledge to commit themselves to abide by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the so-called “Dallas Charter.” At their meeting, the Bishops are discussing how to revise the Charter to apply to Bishops.
On the first day of the General Assembly, the U.S. Bishops also faced calls for greater lay involvement in efforts to address the crisis, as well as greater transparency. In particular, speakers asked the Bishops to request the Holy See to release information from its investigation into the case of Theodore McCarrick, the former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington D.C. who was laicized last year after he was found guilty of having committed “sins against the Sixth Commandment with minors and adults, and solicitation in the Sacrament of Confession”.
In addition to issues surrounding the abuse crisis, the Bishops will be taking up questions concerning upcoming elections in the United States; the ongoing crisis of migration; and the problem of young people leaving the Church.
Other items on the agenda include voting on a National Directory for the formation and ministry for permanent deacons, and on updated translations of liturgical texts for the ordination of clergy.
Debates and voting on the various items will take place on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, with the General Assembly wrapping up on Thursday afternoon.