YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Thursday morning, Pope Francis issued a worldwide directive that all suspected cases of abuse involving priests and other religious leaders be reported. For Youngstown Bishop George Murry, it’s been a long, frustrating wait to get to this point.
“What the pope has come out with this morning is, basically, what we were saying at that time,” Murry said.
He hoped the Vatican would have adopted this stance months ago, but the topic of reporting abuse by priests was put on hold.
While the U.S. Conference of Bishops adopted this years ago, other countries have been slow to follow suit.
“It’s simply a matter that’s just never been done in the past,” Murry said.
In October, the bishop told reporters he wanted his peers to address this issue at that time but was put on hold by the Vatican.
Murry said Thursday’s directive shows the pope wants all churches to follow the same path, ordering bishops to have their policies for reporting abuse in place by June 1.
“It may cause disruption, but I think we have to report these allegations of abuse.”
“Those kinds of things should have been done all along, with reporting,” said Jerry Arnal, a local member of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
He said the church still needs to get away from conducting its own internal investigations of abuse and turn them immediately over to law enforcement.
“Going to the local sheriff’s department or prosecutors in the county where it was purportedly committed.”
Murry said that subject may come up when the U.S. Conference of Bishops meets next month.
“We will develop and present to the Vatican concrete steps about how reports can be made.”
Murry expects those new guidelines will be approved.
Rev. Lawrence Persico, the bishop of the Erie Diocese in Pennsylvania, is also happy to hear this news from the pope:
I am pleased that Pope Francis has issued this important Motu Proprio, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world,” citing Matthew 5:14). This worldwide directive is a direct and concrete step taken as a result of the meeting held in Rome this past February that was attended by all of the presidents of episcopal conferences across the world. I welcome these new norms which call us to an ever greater accountability in the protection of children and vulnerable adults.
As the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo says, ‘For the church in the United States, the task before us now is to establish whatever is necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the document. Our committees have already begun the work of preparing implementation measures for deliberation at the USCCB Plenary Assembly in June.’
I will be attending the meeting in June.
The new law will take effect June 1, 2019. We will then enter a three-year period during which we will be able to make recommendations and offer refinements and improvements as it is implemented.
I am grateful for this significant step forward.”