The Catholic Church's response to sex abuse allegations against clergy and the treatment of victims has improved in the past decade, but an oversight committee of lay church members said in a report that there are still lapses in reporting abuse and following policy.
Another group blasted the National Review Board's progress report as "gutless."
The report and reaction came on the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops annual spring meeting in Atlanta.
The National Review Board was empaneled in June 2002, when the bishops met in Dallas and crafted the Dallas Charter — a series of reforms to respond to highly publicized sex abuse allegations against priests.
On the whole, the board found in its report that "children are safer now because of the creation of safe environments," and that the Catholic Church, "through the commitment of the bishops, the hard work on the diocesan level, and the cooperation of the priests, religious and laity, has done a good job" implementing the Dallas Charter over the past decade.
But a board member warned the nation’s bishops that they must follow their own policies against abuse more rigorously if they hope to restore their fragile credibility.
“If there is anything that needs to be disclosed in a diocese, it needs to be disclosed now,” Al J. Notzon III, head of the bishops’ National Review Board, told some 200 prelates gathered in Atlanta. “No one can no longer claim they didn’t know.”
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which archives data on the abuse scandal, told Religion News Service that the board wasn't tough enough in its assessment.
“The last thing bishops need is more flattery,” Doyle said. “They need a tough national review board and tough diocesan review boards to challenge them on their continued dangerous practices.”