In May 2019, Pope Francis released Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”), an apostolic letter in the form of motu proprio, to address on a global scale the issues of sexual abuse and bishop accountability. The pope’s letter was issued following the Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church which took place in February 2019.
One important part of Vos estis lux mundi (VELM) is the requirement that all dioceses provide a system for reporting and investigation of allegations of abuse by cardinals, bishops, patriarchs, and heads of religious institutes, along with ensuring that anyone who covers up or fails to adequately respond to allegations of abuse while in one of these positions is held accountable. The reporting system was required to be in place by June 1, 2020. One month after the release of VELM, the U.S. bishops convened their general assembly in Baltimore and approved an implementation plan for carrying out the Holy Father’s directives in the United States.
Their work resulted in the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR). The service, run by Convercent, Inc., is now operational. Convercent, Inc. is a third-party commercial vendor of ethics reporting services which has no authority within the Catholic Church.
Reports of abuse or misconduct by a bishop can be made at reportbishopabuse.org or by calling 800-276-1562. On the diocesan website, the reporting process and hotline can be found under the ‘Report Abuse’ tab on the Protecting God’s Children menu. The information is available in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
What types of allegations should be reported through CBAR?
The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service is a system through which individuals are able to relay to Church authorities reports of a U.S. Catholic bishop who has:
- Forced someone to perform or to submit to sexual acts through violence, threat, or abuse of authority;
- Performed sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person;
- Produced, exhibited, possessed, or distributed child pornography, or recruited or induced a minor or a vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions; or
- A diocesan or eparchial bishop, or a cleric overseeing a diocese/eparchy in the absence of a diocesan or eparchial bishop, who has intentionally interfered with a civil or church investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by another cleric or religious.
CBAR is secure and confidential. The privacy of individuals making a report will be respected, and identities will not be shared outside of the appropriate civil and Church authorities who need to act upon the report. The ability to make an anonymous report is also available. Once a report is filed, the filer is given an access number and password that allows them to follow-up on their report.
Vos estis lux mundi (VELM) is a significant step forward for the global Church in continuing our commitment to protect God’s children from the sin of sexual abuse. Many of the directives outlined in the document have been in place in the United States for almost two decades, with the establishment and adoption by U.S. dioceses in 2002 of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
VELM affirms the following practices already in place:
- A commitment to care for the spiritual and emotional well being of survivors and their families
- The duty to comply with civil law and the appropriate civil authorities
- The guarantee of a prompt investigation
- The assurance that laity will be involved
Photo description: Archbishop Scicluna speaks at a news conference presenting Pope Francis’ document, “Vos estis lux mundi,” May 2019. (CNS Photo, Robert Duncan)