In May 2019, Pope Francis released his apostolic letter, Vos estis lux mundi (“You are the light of the world”) to address the issue of sexual abuse and bishop accountability in the global Catholic Church. Vos estis calls upon the metropolitan archbishops to undertake the responsibilities for receiving and assessing reports involving bishops that pertain to sexual abuse and related misconduct.
In June 2019, one month after Pope Francis issued his order, Archbishop José H. Gomez and the bishops of the U.S. convened for their general assembly in Baltimore. As part of the ongoing commitment to carrying out Vos estis, the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting Service (CBAR) was established offering a toll-free phone and online reporting service to receive reports regarding sexual abuse involving bishops.
Information on the CBAR
The Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting service allows for individuals to relay to Church authorities any reports of a U.S. Catholic bishop who has:
- forced someone to perform or to submit to sexual acts
- through violence, threat, or abuse of authority;
- performed sexual acts with a minor or a vulnerable person;
- produced, exhibited, possessed, or distributed child pornography, or recruited or induced a minor or a vulnerable person to participate in pornographic exhibitions;
- or, a diocesan or eparchial bishop, or a cleric overseeing a diocese/eparchy in the absence of a diocesan or eparchial bishop, who has intentionally interfered with a civil or church
- investigation into allegations of sexual abuse committed by another cleric or religious.
Reports received are forwarded to the appropriate Metropolitan and designated lay person– together they review the allegation and promptly forward it to the Apostolic Nuncio who then informs the Holy See and requests direction as to next steps. Whenever a report includes a crime, such as the sexual abuse of a minor, it will also be reported to civil authorities. In those cases where reports to civil authorities are required, Church officials will suspend any canonical action in deference to an investigation being conducted by civil authorities when they so request.
In the event that a report is received that concerns the local metropolitan, then it will be forwarded to the senior suffragan bishop of this local province. Archbishop José H. Gomez is the local metropolitan and Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino is the senior suffragan our local province.