A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Reilly
Creating a Safe Environment
The Catholic Free Press [Worcester MA]
Downloaded February 13, 2004
God of endless love,
ever caring, ever strong
your only Son
was delivered into the hands of the wicked,
yet healed us with the blood of his cross.
My dear friends in Christ,
These are the opening words of a Prayer for Victims which has been on our diocesanWeb site since the spring of 2002. For many years, but most especially these past two years, we have been meeting with victims of child sexual abuse and sharing with them the pain and suffering of their life stories. During these difficult times, our focus was on each person, as we sought to bring healing and justice to those in need to the best of our ability. Now it’s time to step back and look at what we have learned over these recent years, as we seek to restore a trust that has been seriously broken by this tragedy. As I make this report, however, I am conscious of how heavy my heart and yours have become in dealing with this terrible reality. Yet we are, and must be, a people of hope, and this report and the work of our various healing ministries offer assurance that we are on the road, albeit the beginning, towards recovery and peace. We cannot change history, but we are doing all we can to make certain that it will not be repeated. I invite you to learn more by reviewing this report as well as the charter audits and other reports from the diocese on this issue.
I am grateful for the report that has been issued by the District Attorney’s office regarding this issue. The nature and scope of his report varies somewhat from that of the more specific focus of the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and their associated studies. The national and local analysis by the Church has been focused specifically on the abuse of minors over the years. However, many similar trends are apparent which I will discuss further in this report. You will see that our numbers vary somewhat from the District Attorney’s report, but every allegation we have ever received has been shared with his office.
When reviewing any funds expended over the years in dealing with abuse of minors, I wish to underscore the fact that the source of funds for any settlement, therapeutic response, or legal fees was the Bishop’s discretionary funds. The Bishop’s discretionary funds come from a variety of non-designated sources including bequests, specific donations for the bishop’s use, earnings on undesignated funds and/or operational gains from years past. As we have published over the past few years in our financial reports, no donations to the Bishop’s Fund, or parish contributions to the diocese known as the cathedraticum, or gifts to the Forward in Faith capital campaign were used for anything other than their designated purpose. Please refer to the last two fiscal reports posted on our Web site, www.worcesterdiocese.org.
May the gentle Jesus
join to his own suffering,
the pains of those abused
by priests who have betrayed your love,
and servants of your Church,
whose sin has brought us shame.
In January, the national audit of each diocese on the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People found our diocese in compliance with all its elements. That audit focused on having effective responses in place since 2002. Following the spirit of the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I want to share with you what we have learned in undertaking the most comprehensive analysis of this broken trust between some offending clergy and the faithful.
It is important to note that, although even one such case is too many, these acts by specific clergy “peaked” about 25 years ago in 1975-1979. (Addendum chart by year -when allegations began)
Sadly, the victims of these heinous acts carried their burden of abuse with them for an average of 20 years before reporting it to either the Church or to the civil authorities. A large percentage of the cases that we face today came to our attention whether directly to the church or through the civil authorities only since 2002. Our full cooperation with the civil authorities was crucial in order to be sure that they had all the information they needed to ascertain prosecutable crimes and for us to take whatever actions we must take as we sought to fully appreciate the depth and breadth of the problem.
The Church seeks to look beyond this world but its members are nonetheless of this world. As such, it faces many of the same challenges as other organizations. We know of no study being conducted at this time and being publicly shared by other social service, non-profit, or public agencies, which has such an in-depth analysis of this problem. I am sure that it will be of help to others outside the church as we look at trends and profiles. For instance, although the media generally refer to “pedophile” abusers, (those who abused prepubescent children) the larger percentage of the allegations we received involved activities by “ephebophile” abusers (those who abused post-pubescent youth) with teenage boys. We must understand this, as we continue vigorous screening of those interested in the priesthood, and to make improvements in training programs in seminaries, general employment screening, and determining the best policies for those removed from ministry.
By presenting this report to you, I hope to promote healing for those who have been abused while remaining cognizant of the rights of those who have been accused but face no process to defend themselves. This applies, in particular, to those who died before any such allegations were brought to light. We will continue to do all we can to promote healing for those who bring to us substantive allegations of abuse, and put in place additional protections for the safety of children and young people in our care. We must also respect the civil rights due to every American citizen as well as the canonical rights of those who face allegations well past the statute of limitations. Although I believe that Church leaders have not consciously put a child in harm’s way in dealing with this matter over the years, the steps we have been taking, including mandatory CORI checks and safe environment training for all employees and volunteers, ensure that the safety of children in our care is of paramount concern.
May Christ hear the cries of those abused,
may he quell their restless fears with faith in
their doubt, with confidence in your love,
and all rage with trust in your healing mercy.
In an effort to promote healing we must move forward by continuing to offer the emotional, physical and spiritual support now coordinated by our Office for Healing and Prevention to those who chose to come to the Church for help. We must also pray for anyone who has been harmed by a minister of the Church.
Grant all Shepherds of his Church
the compassion to protect his lambs,
the strength to guide his flock,
and the wisdom to model their lives
on Christ, the Good Shepherd.
This crisis also coincides with diminished numbers of candidates for the priesthood. Though we have been blessed with new vocations over the past decade, we know that those numbers cannot keep up with the number of priests who face retirement or illness in the coming years. Although it is scandalous when even one priest harmed a child in any way, the vast majority of priests continued to dedicate their lives to the care of our families, our friends and our neighbors. Our Holy Father has already made it clear that “there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. “ (Papal address to US Cardinals, April 23, 2002) To move beyond this, we must look to the Holy Father’s words in that same address when he said “Neither should we forget the immense spiritual, human and social good that the vast majority of priests and religious in the United States have done and are still doing...”
Their contribution is never more important to us than in the celebration of the Eucharist. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal notes: “When he [the priest] celebrates the Eucharist, therefore, he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he says the divine words, he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ.” (para. 93, The General Instruction of the Roman Missal). That continues to be a demanding call, which can only be done with the full-hearted and prayerful support of all our people.
God of justice and compassion,
protect all children from abuse,
and deliver us from hate.
May we seek only justice and truth,
and trust in your unending mercy.
We ask this through the same Christ, our Lord.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Daniel P. Reilly
Bishop of Worcester
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.