By Tim Harfmann
Arriving for the highly-anticipated conference, Catholic leaders from across the United States are planning to tackle bishop accountability and the protection of minors from clerical abuse.
Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop Witold Mroziewski said that it is their top priority.
“We try to do our best, all of us are very concerned about the situation,” he said.
The bishops were also concerned in November, the last time they gathered in Baltimore.
Thinking they would address a code of conduct, bishops planned on voting on new guidelines for bishop accountability.
But USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo started the conference with an unexpected announcement.
“I need to open our time together with an important announcement,” he told the bishops.
“At the insistence of the Holy See, we will not be voting on the two action items in our documentation regarding the abuse crisis. That is the standards of accountability for bishops, and the special commission for receiving complaints against bishops.”
The Vatican wanted the bishops to wait until Pope Francis held his global summit focusing on abuse, which took place in February.
Back in Baltimore, bishops like Kevin Vann of Orange, California addressed fellow clerics during November’s conference, committed to righting the wrongs of the past.
“I came from a diocese that was damaged, gravely damaged for 16 years and beyond, by the predatory behavior of the diocesan bishop,” Bishop Vann recalled.
“So this is very personal for me. I know what happened, so we really have to give a clear response.”
Before the U.S. conference concluded, Cardinal DiNardo pledged to follow through.
“We’ll work on finalizing the standards of accountability for bishops, finalizing the protocol for removed bishops, and studying national guidelines for the publication of lists of names of those clerics facing substantiated claims of abuse,” he said.
This time around, the bishops are determined to vote on new accountability standards, something Bishop Witold says is “very important, because we are united as one body.”