Foys' Personal Touch

The Kentucky Post [Covington KY]
Downloaded December 9, 2003

Throughout the sexual abuse crisis involving Catholic priests, the chief complaint against church officials nationwide was that they "just didn't get it."

Covington Bishop Roger Foys "gets it."

Since he arrived to shepherd the beleaguered diocese 17 months ago, Foys has strived to bring compassion to the church's response to abuse victims. Foys has met personally with more than 30 victims to hear their pain, to apologize and to give reassurance that the church is taking steps to prevent the abuse from reoccurring.

Not coincidentally, the diocese since October has settled with 32 people involved in court cases against the church, including seven last week.

Financial terms of the individual settlements are confidential, but for most of the victims, it was never about money to begin with. They simply wanted the church to act more like the church and less like a cold, arrogant institution determined to protect its priests and assets.

Cynics may suggest that Foys has ulterior motives, that the meetings are another form of coercion (which Catholic can stand up to the bishop in a face-to-face meeting?), and that the church is trying to avoid the potential of a financial catastrophe should it lose a class-action lawsuit filed against it in Boone County.

But those who scoff should listen to the voice of a 35-year-old named Greg, who was abused by a priest in 1980 and 1981. He originally was a lead plaintiff in the class-action suit, but settled with the church because the court fight wasn't getting him what he wanted -- personal contact. He said the meeting with Foys and the bishop's apology on behalf of the church brought him peace of mind.

"That meant a whole lot," he told The Post. The meeting "was just a way for me to tell my story to the bishop of Covington, the head of the diocese. I needed that."

Two sisters who also settled said Foys helped the process of healing.

His personal outreach is just one of the ways Foys has helped the diocese deal with its sins. He made it clear when he arrived that he supported a "zero tolerance" policy for priests who've committed abuse, unlike Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk.

Under Foys, Covington has also been one of the first dioceses to release the results of a study detailing the extent of crimes within the diocese. Covington's report, issued in September, went beyond that ordered by the States Conference of Catholic Bishops in revealing the number of victims and abusive priests. Unlike Cincinnati, Covington has also been aggressive in removing abusive priests from public ministry.

Not that Foys' response has been perfect. A public meeting with Covington's flock would bring additional openness.

But, in general, Foys should be praised for his spiritual leadership and his response to a painful problem.

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