Encourage U​.​S. Catholic Bishops to Issue Public Apology for Clerical Sex Abuse

Encourage U​.​S. Catholic Bishops to Issue Public Apology for Clerical Sex Abuse

September 11, 2022
Petition to
Bishop, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph Most Reverend James V. Johnston Jr
Signatures: 1,156Next Goal: 1,500
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Why this petition matters


To the Most Reverend James V. Johnston Jr, Chair of the USCCB Committee on the Protection of Children & Young People (CPCYP):

The original Dallas Charter of June 2002 marked the American bishops’ first collective apology for widespread clerical sex abuse, when they stated, “As bishops, we have acknowledged our mistakes and our roles in that suffering, and we apologize and take responsibility again for too often failing victims and the Catholic people in the past.  From the depths of our hearts, we bishops express great sorrow and profound regret for what the Catholic people have endured." 

While the Dallas Charter marked a monumental step forward for our Church at that time, the subsequent July 2018 release of the Pennsylvania Investigative Grand Jury Report and the Vatican’s release of the November 2020 “McCarrick Report” only highlighted how much work is still needed in our Church to advance accountability for abuse and the leadership shortfalls that have failed victim-survivors.  

This past July, the world watched as Pope Francis pointedly offered his remorseful apology to the victims of sexual abuse and other heinous crimes inflicted at Canadian residential schools in years past.  All the while, the vast majority of American Catholics have no idea our 197 American bishops offered their own contrite apology to victims of sexual abuse in 2002.  While Pope Francis chose to visibly take his apology on the world stage, our American bishops’ apology remains buried in the preamble of a charter that is largely unknown to the vast majority of Catholics across the country.  

Our proposal to USCCB 

In this 20th anniversary year of the Boston Archdiocese sexual abuse revelations that set off a series of positive reforms, we the undersigned strongly encourage the USCCB to call a press conference during the November 2022 Fall Assembly to issue a live and public apology to the victims of clerical sex abuse and the thousands of disheartened Catholics who have been so wounded by the negligence exhibited by several Church leaders.

We the undersigned believe the restatement of the USCCB’s original 2002 apology would be a good start, but encourage you to go further in your statements by acknowledging there remains much work to do.  This public apology will be, for many, the first public statement they know of by the American bishops collectively atoning for widespread leadership failures that led to the sex abuse crisis.  It will also be, for many, the first step on a pathway of healing.  Moving forward, objective and independent lay Catholics can play a growing role to ensure transparency and accountability as you seek to build upon the Catholic Bishop Abuse Reporting (CBAR) system.

As we mark submit this proposal to you, the bishops, we close with the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians in saying “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ... If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it.” - 1 Corinthians 12:12,26


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

We, the Catholic faithful, intend for this petition above to demonstrate our nationwide encouragement for the bishops to proactively issue an apology to the many thousands of victim-survivors of clerical sex abuse and disheartened Catholics across our country.  We believe this apology can send a strong message to demonstrate compassion for survivors of abuse, contrition for the Church’s role in systematic mishandling of that abuse that has impacted the sacred trust between laity and clergy, and a commitment to the transparency & accountability necessary to ensure such widespread and unchecked abuse never happens again.   

This petition was created by WATCH (We Are The Church) – a nationwide coalition of lay Catholic groups who strive for increased transparency & accountability around the issue of clerical sex abuse.  

In electronically signing this petition, you will add to the volume of Catholic voices across the United States calling for our bishops to take this simple, yet meaningful step toward acknowledging the institutional failures that perpetuated systemic sex abuse in our Church.  By signing this petition, you are asserting your belief as a hopeful Catholic that our Church can demonstrate Christ-inspired virtues of contrition and love for victims and survivors of abuse above all else.

This apology is meant to be just a beginning.  Our aim as Catholics is to ensure this petition spurs action in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and our Church – and for lay Catholics to play an important role in ensuring accountability together with our clergy leaders. 

God bless you,

Members of the WATCH coalition

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Signatures: 1,156Next Goal: 1,500
Support now

Decision Makers

  • Most Reverend James V. Johnston JrBishop, Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph