No question about it, the meeting of the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops in Dallas from June 13 to 15 was a landmark event. The
attention it attracted was unprecedented, and its results will be
discussed and acted upon for a long time to come.
The members of
our Diocese are familiar with the issues. We have been writing and
talking about them for months. The Western New York Catholic, the
Internet, radio, television, and other newspapers have been some of the
vehicles. I have discussed the problem extensively and intensively for
months now with the Priests' Council, the Vicars, and the diocesan
Pastoral Council. I have preached on the matter in the Cathedral at the
Chrism Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week and Holy Thursday, also on various
Sundays, including Palm Sunday. I have addressed these concerns in
homilies at the daily Mass I celebrate in the Cathedral, which is
carried at multiple times through the day on television and radio in
various parts of Western New York.
This concern was the focus of
my talk at the annual Priests' Lenten Penance Service in March. The
week-long Priests' Convocation in May had this matter for its topic. We
were privileged to have Father (and Dr.) Stephen Rossetti and Sister
Lynn Levo, both of Saint Luke's Institute, to provide the formal
presentations and facilitate the discussions. These arrangements were
made a year in advance.
Throughout this time, I have been
requesting your prayers, particularly before the Blessed Sacrament. I
thank you for the thousands of assurances of prayers that I have
received. They are deeply gratifying and meaningful.
The Charter and the Norms
now it is well known that the Bishops' Dallas meeting produced a
Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the vote: 239
yes and 13 no) and the Essential Norms (229 yes, 5 no, and 1
abstention). The Norms, depending on approval from the Holy See in Rome,
would make the specifics in the Charter Church law for the United
The results? Basically, no priest, deacon, religious, or
lay person, paid or volunteer, who has ever sexually abused a minor, can
have a position of ministry in the Catholic Church. A priest who has
committed such abuse must be removed if he is in active ministry, cannot
celebrate Mass in public, cannot wear clerical garb, and cannot present
himself as a priest. He may be laicized (returned to the lay state, or
Each diocese is to have a review board, composed
primarily of lay people not in the employ of the diocese, to assist in
the assessment of sexual abuse allegations and in the review of diocesan
policy on these matters. We are in the process of developing that
board. We have a diocesan policy on sexual and physical abuse published
in booklet form. We will continue to review that policy.
diocese is to designate a competent assistance coordinator to aid in the
pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused as
minors. We are making arrangements to have that person in place.
Each diocese is to cooperate with the civil authorities in these matters. We have been doing that and we will continue to do so.
procedures for priests transferring dioceses, prospective seminarians,
permanent deacons, candidates for the consecrated life and for
applicants aspiring to work with young people are to be established. We
have those procedures already in place and we implement them. Lectures
and seminars on these matters are also provided by our diocese for
personnel, paid and volunteer, working with young people.
Fasting, Penance, Prayer
Bishops have designated August 14 this year as a day of fasting and
penance for ourselves. August 15, the feast of the Assumption of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, is to be a day of special prayer on these matters.
Obviously fasting, penance, and prayer must go on for a long time to
come, and I invite all to join us in those spiritual exercises.
have stated many times that sexual abuse of minors is despicable,
repugnant, deplorable, a grievous sin and a crime. Once again, I
apologize with the most profound sentiments of sorrow to anyone who has
been sexually abused as a minor by a cleric or anyone else ministering
in the Diocese of Buffalo. Our goal, our prayers, and our work must be
continually oriented to assure to the extent possible that sexual abuse
of minors never again happen in our diocese. May God bless us in this
Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Bishop of Buffalo
June 27, 2002