Bishop Kmiec's Letter to Area Catholics

Tennessean [Nashville TN]
Downloaded February 17, 2004

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

As you may have heard, in two weeks on February 27, the results of a national study on clergy sex abuse conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the request of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Review Board will be released. I want to assure you that we fully cooperated with this study, which covered the period from 1950 to June 2002.

Over the past several years, here in our diocese and in the Church around the country, much attention has been focused on the tragedy of abuse of minors by priests. Unfortunately, some of that abuse has taken place here in our diocese. The last abuse by an active member of the clergy of which the diocese is aware took place nearly 20 years ago, but I would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the abuse of which we are aware.

Between 1950 and 2002, 378 ordained clerics served in the diocese. During that 52-year period, seven priests were credibly accused of abuse of minors and 30 victims have contacted the diocese. Since June 2002, the diocese has not needed to remove any active cleric from ministry. However, in March 2003 a religious order priest was recalled by his provincial superior shortly after the order received an allegation of misconduct that dated back to the early 1980s and predated the priest's ordination. The diocese has paid a little over $200,000 in counseling and charitable assistance to victims. No parish money, or funds given to the Bishop's Stewardship Appeal or to the GIFT Capital Campaign were used for this purpose. The diocese has not entered into any settlements with victims of abuse, and knows of no one who has been credibly accused of the abuse of a minor working in any ministry for many years.

We cannot change what happened twenty, thirty, forty, or even ten years ago; however, we can devote our time and resources to developing good programs such as background checks, screening, checking applications, checking references, and developing good training programs for everyone, including children, to detect, prevent, and report child sexual abuse. Our diocese has an exceptional review board to guide us in our policies, and to respond to any allegations of abuse that might come forward.

Though even one instance of abuse is one too many, the Church has been conscientiously addressing these issues. I again encourage anyone who knows of or reasonably suspects that abuse has taken place, report it to the proper authorities as well as the diocese. I also again extend a charitable invitation to any victim of past abuse, no matter how long ago that abuse might have happened, to come forward if they feel the need for assistance and healing.

Once again, I reiterate our profound sorrow and apology to the victims of past abuse, and to their families, especially as it has occurred here in our diocese. I pray for their healing and for their forgiveness, and I repeat my continuing concern for their well-being. I also regret the pain and hurt that has been suffered by our entire community during the course of this tragedy of abuse, including our good priests who continue to serve us faithfully. I hope that all of our efforts at prevention will renew confidence in our dedication to fidelity in our mission of building God's kingdom of love and goodness in our midst.

Wishing you God's blessing, I remain devotedly yours in Christ.

Edward U. Kmiec
Bishop of Nashville


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