The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which gathers twice a year, has taken up the abuse issue in some recent years (Brendan Smialowski)

Washington (AFP) – The US Conference of Catholic Bishops urged transparency Wednesday in sex assault cases rocking the Church, but failed to agree on standards for dealing with abuse allegations.

“We absolutely have to be open and transparent,” said Bishop Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the conference.

“If we don’t give reason, then people find reasons, speculation and … we look like we are covering things up. So I hope we can do that in moving forward,” he stressed at the gathering in Baltimore, Maryland.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which gathers twice a year, has taken up the abuse issue in some recent years.

But more recent developments have shed light on the staggering scope of abuse in the United States.

A Pennsylvania prosecutors’ office released a damning report in mid-August on abuses perpetrated over decades by more than 300 priests, affecting over 1,000 children.

The report portrayed a hierarchy that had often actively worked to avoid hearing about sex abuse allegations and cases — and indeed protected perpetrators.

Several dioceses have since set up commissions of inquiry into charges of sexual abuse against priests. Some have even published lists of clergy members declared unfit to hold their positions.

But participants in the meeting admitted on Wednesday that there are no agreed criteria for assessing allegations.

“We don’t have a common standard with regard to how we define credible,” Bishop Oscar Cantu of San Jose noted.

“That was raised this week, we would like some national standards. Each bishop is using his best judgment with a team of advisors.”

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