Insights: Bishops Establish Abuse Reporting Framework; Dioceses Highlight SB 360 Threat

Bishops Vote to Move Forward on Third-Party System for Reporting Abuse

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have taken three separate votes that will lead to the establishment of a third-party reporting system designed to receive confidentially, by phone or online, reports of possible violations by bishops per Pope Francis’s Vos estis lux mundi.  (Read about the rules here.)

The bishops voted overwhelmingly in favor of each of the elements necessary to establish a third-party reporting system.  Those elements include:

  • The design of a third-party system for receiving confidentially, by phone or online, reports of possible violations by bishops of Vos estis lux mundi.
  • Development of a more detailed proposal for a third-party reporting system, including financial, structural, and other necessary adjustments to account for Vos estis lux mundi, for review and approval by the Conference’s Administrative Committee at its September and November 2019 meetings.
  • Committing to activate the third-party reporting system by no later than May 31, 2020 by a 220 to 4 vote with 1 abstention.   

Read the USCCB summary of the vote.


Vatican Academies Promote Search for Scientific Truths

“The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

One would think a prominent atheist spoke such words.  Not so. 

Cardinal Caesar Baronius is reported to have said it Galileo Galelei during the course of his struggles with the hierarchy over the astronomer’s radical new view of the scientific method.[i]

In fact, science in the service of human beings is encouraged and supported by the Church.  It always has been, dating as far back as St. Augustine and his refutation of astrology in the 5th century.

“Science and technology,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the basic teaching document of the Church, “are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all.” 

Note the “service” portion of the Catechism.  Science, in the view of the Catholic Church, is always in the service of people and the advancement of humanity.

Pope Francis emphasized this last year when he told the 2018 Davos Forum that artificial intelligence, robotics and other cutting-edge technology should be at the “service of humanity and the protection of our common home.”

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SCU Now Offering Restorative Justice and Chaplaincy Program

In an exciting new venture beginning in September 2019, Santa Clara University is now offering a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministries with an Emphasis in Restorative Justice and Chaplaincy.

The novel program is the first MA in the country with an emphasis on restorative justice.

“There seems to be a rising interest and awakening to this important area in both the academy but also and for us more importantly in ministry,” said Dr. Joseph Morris, director of the Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries at Santa Clara University. “Many students in our program were interested in it and also we encountered the need for it in the various parishes and dioceses we visited.”

The program will feature a pastoral approach to trauma and healing in a broken world. It will include an introduction to the criminal justice system as well as intercultural and interreligious competencies.

Degrees in Pastoral Ministries could provide the opportunity for chaplaincy work; bereavement, hospice and social justice ministries, as well as advocacy.

“The fundamental call of the gospel is to spread the mercy and love of God to others and to develop ministries that bring healing where there are brokenness and injustice,” Dr. Morris said.

“As there are many people in the dioceses throughout California that minister and serve in various capacities both within and outside of prisons and jails, this program is uniquely focused on assisting those ministers to investigate the gospel foundations of restorative justice and how it can enhance both one’s own spirituality but also using its practices in their ministry,” he said.

The program will feature a total of 15 courses in theology and ministry, with two locations – one in northern California (location to be determined) and one in San Diego at the Diocese of San Diego.

The courses are taught through a combination of face-to-face, video conferencing and online experiences. All courses, therefore, provide live video conferencing with the professor and other students, but also at least three all-day classes held face-to-face with the professor.

The deadline to apply for the Fall 2019 quarter is August 15. For those that qualify, scholarships are available. There is the opportunity to register for classes out of interest without the intent of completing a degree.

Visit for more information.


California Budget Challenges

Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislature are close to striking a deal on the new state fiscal budget before the June 15 deadline but not without concessions from both ends.  

Both the Assembly and the Senate have passed the budget.  It is now headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  In California, the Governor does have line veto authority so some of this can change.

The Governor and the Legislature have agreed to include a large increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit in the budget, but are still negotiating the final details of both the tax conformity package and the tax credit expansion. While both the Senate and Assembly adopted versions of the Governor’s proposal, they did not adopt the proposal to pay for the increase.

The Governor proposed shifting the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) away from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and into the Health and Human Services Agency. The new department will be called the Department of Youth and Community Restoration. Accompanying legislation would also create an advisory body to provide recommendations and best practices that promote a commitment to improving youth outcomes, reduce youth detention, and reduce recidivism.

There is also a one-time allocation of $5 million General Fund for a restorative justice pilot program in San Joaquin County. This program would put victims first and help transform those who have committed crimes to reduce our reliance on mass incarceration.

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Updates and Events on SB 360

Many dioceses are planning special weekends highlighting the threat of SB 360 (Hill, D-Mateo), the bill that would remove the right to privacy between a penitent and confessor during the Sacrament of Reconciliation and other spiritual counseling for priests and employees of the Church.

Click here to join the thousands of members who have sent letters to legislators asking them to vote down this bill. Thank you to all who have already done so. Your efforts are not going unnoticed but there is still much work to do.

While this particular bill is of great threat to the sanctity of the confessional and the Church, this could open the door to further legislation targeting the Church.

We must stop this bill now as other states are taking notice. New York has now proposed a similar bill and it’s not likely to stop there if California is successful in passing this bill. 

Be sure to check your parish for events around SB 360 to help spread the word to defeat this bill.


AMA Reaffirms Position Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

This week, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates voted by a 2to-1 margin to affirm its longstanding opposition to physician-assisted suicide. Thank you to all who took note and asked members to vote against supporting the change.


June 14, 2019
Vol. 12, No. 19




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