Catholic Leaders Address Sex Abuse
Bishop Robert Rose of the Diocese of Grand Rapids and Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida Direct Letters to Parishes

Grand Rapid Press (Michigan)
March 25, 2002

Bishop Robert Rose in Grand Rapids and Cardinal Adam Maida in Detroit this weekend sent messages of reassurance to parishioners amidst growing frustration about the sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the Catholic church nationwide.

Rose issued a public statement condemning sexual abuse and expressing sympathy for the victims.

Cardinal Adam Maida, in a Palm Sunday homily at St. Francis Cabrini Parish near Detroit, called for honesty and openness, acknowledging the sad reality that the church, with its fallible clergy, is imperfect.

"Some priests -- even bishops -- have betrayed the trust of the people. I apologize for their mistakes," said Maida, leader of the Archdiocese of Detroit's 1.4 million Roman Catholics. "To all who have suffered abuse, the church wants to provide assistance in healing and to assure you that we have in place guidelines to do our best to ensure that children are never again abused."

Priests across the country discussed the scandal with parishioners as Catholics gathered for the beginning of Holy Week, the most solemn observation of the Christian calendar. Revelations earlier this year that the Archdiocese of Boston failed to banish priests accused of child molestation have been repeated in parishes across the country.

Rose called the betrayals of trust between a priest and his flock "inexcusable."

"I personally feel deep sorrow for the children and young people victimized by such misconduct and great regret for the subsequent pain and anguish they endure," he wrote. Rose did acknowledge the Grand Rapids diocese had a "few allegations in recent years." While Rose did not refer to specific cases, diocese officials said there have been no new allegations since 1995, when a Grand Rapids priest was accused in a civil suit of inappropriately massaging a boy in his parish.

Diocesan spokeswoman Mary Haarman said the charges against the accused priest, the Rev. Joseph Kenshol, were "reported to the authorities and he was cleared through legal proceedings." Diocesan authorities said when the suit was filed that Kenshol's behavior was "immature and inappropriate, indicating poor judgment but nothing more," and after a medical leave and evaluation found him fit to return to pastoral duties.

The plaintiff's lawyer, B. Elliot Grysen, would say only that the case was "resolved according to a confidentiality agreement."

Rose was referring to that case and two others previously reported publicly, Haarman said.

Rose said the diocese has been "proactive" in dealing with abuse by establishing policies and procedures for responding to allegations. Those include maintaining a team of lay and religious professionals, including a therapist and victim assistance minister, to evaluate complaints.

If a complaint against a diocesan priest or deacon is judged to be "well-founded," the clergyman is put on administrative leave and monitored pending the case's resolution. Civil authorities are notified.

A medical and psychological treatment plan is ordered and monitored. If the accused fails to complete it, the diocese may offer him the right to step down from the priesthood or put him on church trial and possibly defrock him.

"We pray that the Lord will protect our young people and all of us from such tragedies," Rose said.

In the Detroit area, At least five priests have been removed because of abuse allegations since 1992. And last week, a prominent family of athletes raised new allegations of sexual abuse that allegedly took place here decades ago.

On Sunday, Maida said the community needs to be attentive to warning signs of abuse so it can be stopped.

"What remains hidden cannot be healed and, in fact, only gets worse," Maida said. "And the truth will come to light."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.