As we move through this extremely difficult time in the Church's history, at the forefront of my mind each day and foremost in my prayers are all victims who have suffered at the hands of clergy they trusted. My heart hurts and I share in the anger, grief and disappointment felt by so many. This crisis has shaken our community of believers to its core. But as Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, "With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." Those words couldn't be truer. We as human beings are completely inept to do anything on our own, but with God, there is hope.
We can be sure that this story will yet have many hard, sad and difficult days ahead. However, as we continue to take one step at a time, I thought it fitting to share some of those things which have already been and are now being put in place to further ensure the safety of both children and adults in all parts of our diocese. Moving forward, I strongly subscribe to the notion advocated by Msgr. Stephen Rosetti, PhD., a renowned scholar, advocate and activist in child sexual abuse prevention, along with having a major role in the drafting of the USCCB's 2002 "Charter" that says "we shouldn't be crafting policy in order to win public approval, but rather, we should be doing what is right because it is right and let the chips fall where they may."
Taking responsibility/Contrition - Both of these will be forever intertwined. Saying we're sorry to victim/survivors opens the door to take steps forward and we can't say it enough. The sins of abusers is a small cross to bear for the Church, compared to the ongoing pain endured by victims.
Action - This is key. Towards that end, here are:
*things already in place (From 2002 to 2018)
- Charter for the Protection of Children & Young People ("The Charter") - Nationally, as well as, locally, the Charter from its inception has created compliance mandates focused on unprecedented protections for young people and vulnerable adults.
- Mandates of the Charter include:
- Background checks of clergy, employees, teachers, volunteers, anyone working w/children
- Diocesan Code of Conduct
- Safe Environment Training Program for adults and children
- Protocol for responding to child victims as well as vulnerable adults
- Diocesan Review Board - The DRB advises me in my assessment of allegations of child or vulnerable adult sexual abuse; with the exception of one priest member, it is an all laity board
- Annual Charter Audits - we have passed all such audits
*things put in place now, (2018-going forward)
- Holy Hour of Reparation & Healing
- IRCP/including selling assets like Bishops Residence for victim fund
- Protocol for Adult victims - Task Force created to develop this
- Releasing List of Abuser Names - 2nd list coming soon
- Sending substantiated cases to Rome for adjudication
- Establishment of the Office of Professional Responsibility
- Task Force for the development of protocol for adult victims of abuse
Accountability - This is vital. I want you to hold me and my team accountable in this process. I want you to hold my feet to the fire. Like the marriage vow many of you reading this took, I too take my promises with the utmost seriousness, "for better or for worse." A couple, who recently wrote to me in a critical but supportive way, put it like this - "Don't quit, do better, take charge." I humbly and resolutely say to you, I will not resign my position. With God at the helm and your trust, I will lead our diocese through this storm to better days.
Transparency - This is so very important. Without it, none of this works. Much has been said in the press about cover-ups, secrecy, hiding things, and so forth. My pledge is that all aspects of what I've shared with you here, things already put in place and things being put in place now, are clearly seen and scrutinized. We want to be held to the highest standard, as the lives and safety of God's children and adults are at stake.
Hope - A true gift from God. Nobody says this better than sacred scripture and I quote:
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord, "plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11)
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways follow him, and He will make your path straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
May the peace of Christ be with you.