The bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, invited Catholics June 13 "to pray for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, their families and all those who accompany survivors in the path toward healing, that they experience Christ's profound love for them and God’s healing grace."
As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. urged the prayers in a statement on the 20th anniversary of the USCCB's "Dallas Charter" addressing "the sin of clergy sexual abuse."
"It was two decades ago that the U.S. bishops gathered in Dallas to draft a comprehensive set of child protection standards that became the 'Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,' which each diocese and eparchy is now committed to following," Bishop Johnston said.
"Since the implementation of the charter, the USCCB has been a resource for the creation and implementation of child protection policies and safe environment programs that are enforced at the local level," he added.
The USCCB website has a "Prayer for Healing Victims of Abuse," which can be found at https://www.usccb.org/prayers/prayer-healing-victims-abuse.
The charter, originally approved by the bishops during their spring assembly in Dallas in June 2002, is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
Besides child protection and safe environment policies, the charter also addresses healing and reconciliation for abuse survivors; requirements for making a prompt and effective response to allegations and cooperating with civil authorities; disciplining offenders; and providing for accountability and the prevention of future acts.
The charter, which was revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018, also created the USCCB's Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection.
The bishops also established the National Review Board during their June 2002 meeting. The lay advisory group oversees the bishops' compliance with child protection policies; the board's functions were revised slightly and reconfirmed in June 2004.
"Dioceses and eparchies have faced evolutionary shifts and changes during these past 20 years since the passage of the charter, and we are grateful to the Holy See for the multiple measures they have taken to address the issue of sexual abuse and bishop accountability for the global Catholic Church," Bishop Johnston said.
Pope Francis "has tried to set an example by pushing for greater accountability, transparency and honesty on handling clergy sexual abuse.," he added.
Bishop Johnston also emphasized the church's continued commitment to vigilance in protecting children and the vulnerable.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the charter, he said, the USCCB's Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection will release several new resources in coming weeks that will be available on online at https://www.usccb.org/committees/protection-children-young-people.
The resources include videos, podcasts and a webinar series in the secretariat's ongoing commitment to assist the dioceses and eparchies of the United States "in safeguarding children and the vulnerable," the bishop said.
This year, he added, the secretariat will continue its High Reliability Organization initiative, which provides diocesan/eparchial staff with proactive abuse prevention strategies, and the Child Abuse Prevention Empowerment online learning platform available to all church personnel to learn more about matters of child and youth protection.
"The USCCB's Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People along with the National Review Board have provided vital guidance and insight for the dioceses and eparchies through educational opportunities, resource libraries and policy consultation," Bishop Johnston said.
"I am most grateful for the engagement of survivors who have shared their painful experiences with us and have allowed us to walk with them in their journey toward healing as we strive to create a culture of protection and healing, and continuous improvement," he added.