Anne-Marie Welsh

Bishop Lawrence Persico met with several reporters after last week’s meeting of the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops (USCCB), including John Last of ErieNewsNow.

Although Bishop Lawrence Persico acknowledged there were moments at last week’s meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that were disappointing, overall he came away from the meeting believing the bishops are moving in the right direction.

“When we first learned that the Vatican had asked us not to take any votes—they wanted to wait until after the Holy See meets with the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world in February—it was disconcerting,” the bishop said. “But then Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago immediately suggested we move forward as planned, even if we couldn’t vote.” Bishop Persico said that led to good dialogue and discussion, and allowed the bishops to come up with a consensus.

“Even if we’d voted, we are still talking in broad strokes,” he said. “This has confirmed for the executive committee that they are moving in the right direction.”

In remarks to all bishops after the close of the public portion of the gathering in Baltimore, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and president of the USCCB, outlined goals and directions he indicated were set both by the bishops and by what he’s heard from survivors of abuse across the country.

“Prior to the meeting of episcopal conference presidents, the Task Force I established this week will convert that direction into specific action steps,” he said, offering the following:

  • A process for investigating complaints against bishops reported through a third-party compliance hotline. We will complete a proposal for a single national lay commission and a proposal for a national network relying upon the established diocesan review boards, with their lay expertise, to be overseen by the metropolitan or senior suffragan.
  • Finalizing the Standards of Accountability for Bishops.
  • Finalizing the Protocol for Removed Bishops: This concerns both active and retired bishops who personally abused or failed to act when allegations were brought to them.
  • Studying national guidelines for the publication of lists of names of those clerics facing substantiated claims of abuse.
  • Supporting the fair and timely completion of the various investigations into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick and publication of their results. We are grateful for the Holy See’s statement of October 6 in this regard.
Bishop Persico noted that addressing sexual abuse in the church and how it’s handled “will be with us for a long time. Once you break trust,” he said, “it takes a long time for trust to be returned. We have to show we believe significant changes are necessary. What we did at the conference was take steps in the right direction."