By Robbie Izzard, Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator
This time last year, Pope Francis established new norms for the universal church in his Apostolic letter, “Vos estis lux mundi,” (You are the light of the world), which established new procedures for reporting abuse by clerics, specifically including bishops and religious superiors. These norms pertain to the whole worldwide Catholic Church. Its intent has been to ensure that those who abuse another person, abuse their power and/or intend to interfere with a civil or canonical investigation related to abuse are held accountable for their actions.
It is very important to note that these new norms support the existing local requirements by the United States Bishops and the Diocese of Juneau to report any and all allegations of abuse to law enforcement by anyone representing the Catholic Church. “Vos estis lux mundi” also mandated that each conference of Catholic Bishops establish a reporting system, by June of this year, that can be used to report to the church, allegations made against bishops and religious superiors.
This reporting system is called the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR) and was initiated on March 16th of this year. A letter from Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M., Bishop of the Diocese of Juneau can be found on the Diocese of Juneau website, http://www.dioceseofjuneau.org describing this service and the process.
In his letter, Bishop Bellisario explains that “this service is provided by Convercent, Inc. an independent, third-party entity that provides intake services to private institutions for reports of sensitive topics … through a secure, confidential and professional platform.”
To report an allegation against a bishop or religious superior and/or to learn more about this reporting service and how it works, please visit: ReportBishopAbuse.org. Reports are also accepted by calling (800) 276-1562. More detailed information about the CBAR can also be found by going to the Diocese of Juneau website under the safe environment page titled, “reporting abuse.”
Bishop Bellisario also stresses that “in addition to reporting any allegations against a U.S. Catholic Bishop through the CBAR service, those making a report through this system are also encouraged to report the allegation directly to law enforcement.”
Additional important points to make regarding the CBAR is that all reports received by the CBAR regarding any bishop living in Alaska, are referred to the Metropolitan Bishop or Senior Suffragen Bishop and their “qualified lay person.” The reports which meet criminal law standards, will be reported to local law enforcement by the diocesan bishop and/or the “qualified lay person.” Also, the CBAR does not replace existing reporting systems for complaints against priests, deacons, religious or laity which are required to be reported to local law enforcement.
Bishop Bellisario reiterates that if anyone has been sexually abused by someone representing the Church and has not yet reported the abuse, he asks them to consider disclosing what happened to them. He concludes his letter about the Catholic Bishops Reporting Service by stating that the best way to report an allegation is to report to your local law enforcement agency and you may also contact the Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator by calling 907-586-2227 x 25 and we will do our best to help you, and assist with reporting to law enforcement.