By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published April 2, 2020
ATLANTA—A new reporting system for sexual misconduct allegations against United States bishops began March 16.
The Catholic Bishops Abuse Reporting Service, or CBAR, includes a website and phone number where people can make reports regarding sexual abuse against a bishop only. The information is protected through enhanced encryption.
According to the CBAR website, the reporting service may be used to report the actions of living U.S. Catholic bishops, whether active or retired, of U.S. dioceses or eparchies. This includes bishops of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA and apostolic administrators of vacant U.S. sees and the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
Those reporting a bishop can make a report online at ReportBishopAbuse.org or call 800-276-1562.
For sexual abuse reporting of priests, deacons, religious or other church personnel, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Atlanta are encouraged to call the local hotline number, 1-888-437-0764.
“A big part of this will be helping people understand which hotline to call,” said Jenni Ellis, director of Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
The CBAR website and phone number are available on the Archdiocese of Atlanta website. Depending on the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus, posters with CBAR reporting information will be in parishes and schools in mid-August, said Ellis.
Those who use CBAR for reporting abuse by a bishop are also encouraged to contact law enforcement, said Maureen Smith, communications director for the Atlanta Archdiocese.
“We hope to continue to send the message that no one is above the law and that no one is exempt from doing the right thing,” said Smith.
In his apostolic letter, “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (You are the Light of the World), Pope Francis provides guidelines for dioceses to follow throughout the world when addressing sexual abuse allegations.
“The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community,” said Pope Francis. “It is good that procedures be universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful.”
Reports must include the name of the bishop being reported on, a description of the allegation, place where it occurred and timeframe, as best that can be remembered. Those submitting reports can choose whether to share their personal information or for it to be kept confidential.
Once the abuse by a bishop is submitted, a lengthy process follows, which includes a lay person who will review the report. Those who make a report will receive a personal password and access number to check the status of their report.
“We want to emphasize that the church is doing everything we can to prevent and stop abuse at every level,” said Smith.