Hours after the Vatican released the McCarrick report, which documented predatory behavior by the laicized former Cardinal toward young men studying for the priesthood, Bishop Alfred Schlert sent a group text message to the Diocese of Allentown’s 16 Seminarians.
“It is important for me to reiterate what I have stated to you previously,” the Bishop told them. He urged them to feel free to report immediately any pressure they may feel, or any inappropriate behavior by any person.
“As brothers, we must live in accountability and transparency,” the Bishop told them, “no matter what our position in the Church.” He also met with the Seminarians recently via Zoom to discuss the report.
The Church has made significant progress in reducing incidences of abuse, and in keeping children and vulnerable adults safe. The number of cases of clergy sexual abuse has declined sharply over the past 20 years.
In addition, Pope Francis and American Bishops have established a mechanism to report inappropriate behavior by bishops. The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service is an independent company that collects information on allegations of abuse by bishops and forwards it to the appropriate authorities. Information on how to make a report appears on Page Two of every issue of the AD Times.
More than a year before the reporting service was established, Bishop Schlert issued his own pledge of accountability, vowing that the Diocese will not protect abusers, that he will take immediate action when allegations are made, and that he will be held accountable.
“Our past failures as Bishops must not be repeated,” he wrote as part of the pledge. “I welcome independent and objective scrutiny as I work to fulfill my grave responsibility to prevent abuse and to keep children safe.”
In their annual meeting last week, which was held virtually, bishops from around the country discussed the McCarrick report as part of their agenda. Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered prayers and encouragement for the victims, and urged his fellow bishops to “renew our commitment today to protecting children and vulnerable adults and to eliminating this scourge of abuse from the Church.”