BALTIMORE (WJZ) — U.S. Catholic Bishops voted Wednesday to create a new national sex-abuse hotline run by an independent entity, a decision that represents one of the church’s most tangible steps yet in confronting its sex-abuse crisis.
“If you need to call the civil authorities, call the civil authorities,” Arlington, Virginia, Bishop Michael Burbidge said. “If you need to call the Metropolitan with concern, call the Metropolitan. The third-party system will be another way that you can do that.”
The conference in Baltimore is amid another sex scandal that broke last year in Pennsylvania where a grand jury report charged 300 priests with more than 1,000 sexual assaults over 50 years.
Wednesday afternoon calls for reform rang loud outside, including a group headed by a former priest. He is calling on the attorney general to open a federal investigation into the church’s sexual abuse cover-ups and financial practices.
“It’s these bishops who are just corrupt to the core. They are now going to argue today about reporting crimes. They still want to police themselves,” said former priest Robert Hoatson.
Just last week, Baltimore’s Archbishop Lori acknowledged a mistake in not revealing $7,500 in gifts he received from then-West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield after a Washington Post report surfaced.
Bransfield spent church money on chartered flights, $182,000 on fresh flowers, and $1,000 a month on liquor.
“It is a mess and it is not stopping,” Hoatson said.
Bransfield is also accused of sexually harassing young priests, in some cases inappropriately touching them.
“This is a very criminal organization in many, many ways. Especially in the hierarchy,” Hoatson said.
Bishops inside the conference addressed the calls for reform.
Protests continued throughout Wednesday outside the Marriott from survivors of church sexual abuse.
Survivors network invited Cardinal Daniel Dinardo and other bishops to hear their stories on Wednesday night, but none showed up.
The conference continues through Friday at Harbor East.