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Archdiocese to create lay council to help address causes of sex-abuse crisis

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is establishing an advisory council of lay Catholics to help improve its performance in the wake of the sex-abuse revelations that have rocked the church worldwide in recent weeks, Archbishop William E. Lori announced Friday.

In a letter he sent to members of the archdiocese, Lori said he has held more than 20 gatherings to listen to the concerns of parishioners, clergy members, educators, parents and others in the weeks since an explosive 900-page Pennsylvania grand jury report released in August detailed the abuse of more than 1,000 children by more than 300 priests going back seven decades.

A month earlier, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington, resigned after church officials said they believed decades-old sexual abuse allegations against McCarrick to be credible.

Last week, Pope Francis named Lori the apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston after the bishop of that West Virginia diocese, Michael J. Bransfield, resigned amid in allegations of sexual misconduct against adults.

At every gathering he has held, Lori wrote, attendees have “demanded transparency and accountability” and a greater voice in church affairs.

“They want to play a more active role in the life of the Church, not only pastorally, but also administratively,” he wrote. “Put simply, they don’t trust the bishops or Church leaders to address these issues on their own.”

Lori added that he agrees with that view — that where church leaders have broken trust, they must admit it and work to do better while also allowing the laity a stronger voice in holding clergy members accountable.

He did not specify the size of the Archdiocese Pastoral Council or offer a timetable for its creation, but he said it would be a “collegial body” that will draw on the gifts of lay members from across the diocese to offer input on pastoral matters, including the strengthening of existing child-protection policies.

The announcement comes as church leaders nationwide have called for a greater role for the laity as the recent scandals unfolded.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, called last month for the “substantial involvement of the laity” from relevant occupations, including psychology and law enforcement, in developing a plan that could be presented at his organization’s annual general assembly in Baltimore in November.

Lori pledged that the Archdiocese would continue to cooperate with law enforcement, “as has been our longstanding practice.”

Spokesmen for the Archdiocese did not respond Friday to requests for further comment.

jonpitts@baltsun.com

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