Cesareo urged greater lay participation and independence from bishops in conducting sexual abuse audits.
“We find ourselves at a turning point, a critical moment in our history, which will determine in many ways the future vibrancy of the Church, and whether or not trust in your leadership can be restored,” he said.
Lay involvement should be mandatory to make darn sure that we bishops do not harm the Church in the way bishops have harmed the Church.
“Because of the actions or inactions of some bishops, some in the general public have lost confidence in the body of bishops, despite the sincere efforts of many of you,” he added.
The conference discussed a “third party hotline” by which a victim of abuse by a bishop reports the abuse to a contractor, who is delegated by the metropolitan archbishop; the contractor then relays the reports of abuse to the metropolitan, who then reports it to the Vatican, after which a canonical process begins.
In short, the third-party hotline is designed to receive confidentially, by phone or online, reports of possible violations by bishops per Vos Estis.
The “bishops policing bishops” policy can trace its origin to the November 2018 U.S. bishops’ assembly in Baltimore, when Pope Francis effectively “pulled the rug out from under the feet of the US Bishops.”
At that meeting, Cdl. Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), unexpectedly announced that the pontiff had nixed discussion of lay participation and a vote on sex abuse reform — the intended order of business for the conference.
One proposal scheduled to be discussed and voted upon was the establishment of a lay board vested with investigative powers into the actions of bishops.
Six months later, on May 9, Pope Francis promulgated Vos Estis, confirming the directives he handed down at the Nov. 2018 USCCB gathering.
The pope’s new norms on sex abuse place ”the metropolitan archbishop in charge of any investigation into allegations of abuse by brother bishops. The metropolitan’s power is near-total.”