Sept. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Thursday announced it has created new policies to handle sexual abuse accusations against bishops in the church.
"Some bishops, by their actions or their failures to act, have caused great harm to both individuals and the Church as a whole," the USCCB said in a statement. "They have used their authority and power to manipulate and sexually abuse others. They have allowed the fear of scandal to replace genuine concern and care for those who have been victimized by abusers. For this, we again ask forgiveness from both the Lord and those who have been harmed."
The church has had a formal system to handle accusations against priests since 2002, but not for bishops, who are responsible for investigating priests, according to the Wall Street Journal.
One of the policy changes put forth by the USCCB is to have an independent body set-up for victims to report allegations against bishops.
The independent body will receive confidential complaints by phone and online of sexual abuse by minors and adults by a bishop. Those complaints will then be directed to law enforcement and the "appropriate ecclesiastical authority."
The USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance will also develop new proposals to address restrictions on bishops who have been removed or resigned because of abuse accusations -- and create a Code of Conduct for bishops.
The USCCB also announced that it will launch a full investigation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C., who resigned in July over decades-old abuse claims.
"This is only a beginning," the USCCB said. "Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts, and other laity along with clergy and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice."