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The U.S. Bishops gather for Mass at their Spring meeting in June 2018.Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The outgoing and incoming chairpersons of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) National Advisory Council (NAC) delivered stirring presentations on the sex abuse crisis at the fall gathering of U.S. bishops Tuesday morning.

Their forceful remarks elicited a standing ovation from those in attendance.

The bishops’ meeting is taking place while the American Catholic Church is being investigated by more than six states for its handling of sex abuse allegations. It also comes at a time when the Church and its leaders in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Chile, and the Vatican have come under intense scrutiny by law enforcement and clergy and seminarians for covering up and/or ignoring sex abuse claims.

During their presentations, Chairman Father David Whitestone and Chairwoman-elect retired Air Force Colonel Anita Raines informed the bishops of the NAC’s proposals on effectively addressing the sex abuse crisis. Among the Council’s suggested reforms are a new code of conduct for bishops, an audit of seminaries to root out predatory homosexual behavior, an investigation into ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and a third party system to investigate allegations of abuse.

“Clergy, including bishops, must be called back to a prophetic life of chastity,” Whitestone said. “We are facing painful times in the Church.”

The depth of anger, pain, and disappointment expressed by members of the NAC “cannot begin to be expressed adequately in words.”

Expressions of sorrow and vague promises of future action will no longer do, he continued. Only a radical call to true repentance and dedication to the person of Christ will allow for forgiveness and healing to truly take place.

Whitestone, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, also remarked that the passing of time does not make the demand for justice less urgent, emphasizing that the NAC unanimously agreed there is “no single more pressing” issue the USCCB should focus on than the sex abuse crisis.

The NAC acts as an advisory organization for the USCCB’s Administrative Committee. Approved by the U.S. bishops in April 1968, it is comprised typically of 40 to 50 deacons, priests, men and women religious, and laity. The group is tasked with studying pressing issues and reporting back to the USCCB with pastoral suggestions. This year, the NAC met from September 6 to 9 to discuss the sex abuse crisis in preparation for the fall meeting.

“Sinful acts committed by priests and bishops, and then covered up or tolerated by bishops [do] grave harm to the Church,” said Whitestone. Not only were minors harmed, but “we're also more aware of predatory behavior by bishops against seminarians and other adults.”

Colonel Raines notified the bishops that the NAC wants a thorough, independent investigation into McCarrick. The results should be made public so trust and faith in the episcopacy can be restored, she said. The NAC also voted 35 to 0 to recommend an audit of U.S. seminaries to investigate “predatory homosexual behavior.”

Raines also announced that the NAC considered revising the 2002 Statement of Episcopal Commitment that outlined how clergy should handle sex abuse cases. Ultimately, the NAC deemed it better to scrap the document entirely and create new standards.

Despite thunderous applause breaking out at the conclusion of the presentations, the NAC’s proposals will not be voted on at the fall meeting due to Pope Francis’ intervention Monday directing the bishops to hold off on approving measures aimed at addressing the sex abuse crisis in the United States.