US Catholic bishops announce new policies to police bishops

The US Catholic bishops' conference issued a dramatic apology on Wednesday for the role of bishops in the church's clergy
sexual abuse scandal and announced new initiatives to hold abusive or negligent bishops accountable.
"Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a
whole," said the administrative committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement.

"They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others. They have allowed the fear of scandal
to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers."

The statement from the US Catholic bishops' conference comes a week after its leadership met with Pope Francis at the
Apostolic Palace in Rome. In a statement after the meeting, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the bishops' conference,
called it a "lengthy, fruitful and good exchange."

But in recent weeks most of the news surrounding the Catholic Church has been far from good.

The church is facing abuse scandals on several continents, with its epicenter in the United States. American Catholics are
reeling from a series of scandals beginning with the surprise announcement in July that a leading American cardinal had
been credibly accused of abusing a minor.

That scandal, which led to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick's demotion from the prestigious College of Cardinals, has been
followed by a series of equally damning accusations, from a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found widespread evidence
of sexual abuse and cover ups, to the announcement last Thursday that Pope Francis has ordered an investigation into a
West Virginia bishop who has been accused of sexually harassing adults.

DiNardo himself is also facing accusations that he mishandled a complaint against a Catholic priest in Texas in 2010.

"This is a time of deep examination of conscience for each bishop," the bishops' administrative committee said on
Wednesday. "We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the Church has been sufficient."

The administrative committee at the bishops conference is composed of about 25-30 members, including the president and
top leadership, the chairs of bishops' committees and regional representatives. Typically, the committee sets the agenda for
the bishops' semiannual meetings, when new polices are debated and voted on.

McCarrick is the only American archbishop mentioned by name in the statement. The committee said it "supported a full
investigation into the situation" surrounding him, "including his alleged assaults on minors, priests, and seminarians as well
as other matters regarding the current crisis."

McCarrick has denied the accusation about the minor and is appealing his removal from ministry at the Vatican. He has not
responded to the allegations about the seminarian.

Notably, the bishops' statement makes no mention of the possibility ofa Vatican-led investigation into McCarrick, which
DiNardo had said he would seek from Pope Francis. A Vatican spokesman has not responded to requests for information
from CNN.

Even without the Pope's approval, the US bishops can take several steps on their own. On Wednesday, they announced
they had:

1. Approved a "third-party reporting system" to receive confidential complaints of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop, and
sexual harassment of or sexual misconduct with adults by a bishop, and will direct those complaints to civil authorities and
the "appropriate" church authorities. Those authorities are not named in the statement.

2. Ordered a committee at the bishops' conference to develop proposals for policies "addressing restrictions on bishops who
were removed or resigned because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors or sexual harassment of or misconduct with
adults, including seminarians and priests."

3. Began the process of developing a "code of conduct" for bishops regarding the sexual abuse of a minor by a bishop;
sexual harassment of, or misconduct with an adult by a bishop; or "negligence of a bishop in the exercise of his office
related to such cases."

4. Agreed to support a full investigation into McCarrick, with help from lay experts in relevant fields, such as law
enforcement and social services.

"This is only a beginning. Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts, and other laity along with clergy
and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice," the bishops said in
their statement.