After the Vatican Abuse Summit, What Comes Next?

The time has come for an “all-out battle.”


So said Pope Francis at the conclusion of the Vatican’s first-ever summit on sexual abuse, which brought together the heads of bishops’ conferences from around the world, along with many cardinals. It was a powerful moment at the end of an important gathering, and the Pope deserves praise for convening the meeting and for his strong words.


But the Pope’s exhortation doesn’t just apply to the bishops. It’s also a call to action for lay Catholics. In the wake of the summit, the faithful must support the Pope by prayerfully and respectfully requesting a greater role in the purification of our Church.


For Catholics in the United States, our focus needs to be the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ upcoming assembly in June in Baltimore. We’ve been blessed with many bishops who are committed to reform, accountability and healing. We need to let them know that we support them, which is why the laity should encourage the bishops to use the Baltimore gathering to expand one of the most effective Church reforms in U.S. history — the Dallas Charter.


The Dallas Charter was drafted by the bishops in June 2002 after the Boston abuse scandal hit earlier that year. It instituted many new and long-overdue procedures to crack down on predator priests. One of its most important reforms was the creation of lay review boards.


These bodies, which exist in every diocese that adopted the Dallas Charter, are run by regular Catholics. They’re charged with creating new policies to prevent abuse and investigating allegations against priests. Before their inclusion in these boards, the faithful were largely uninvolved and unaware of the extent of the crisis. Thanks to the Dallas Charter, we’ve taken a leading role in ending it.


And here’s the thing: Lay leadership works. Read more