Letter from the Bishop
The Herald News
April 13, 2002
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
It is with great pain and anguish that I write this letter to you. Never in my life did I think that I would need to address once again the abuse of children by clergy. The continuing reports of clergy sexual abuse throughout the country have damaged the trust and confidence of many people.
My heart goes out to the victims of abuse, the ones whose innocence has been taken advantage of. I pray for them and for their welfare. I am concerned also about the erosion of trust that has affected many good priests who daily carry on their ministry.
Since 1990, the Diocese of Joliet has had a policy on sexual misconduct. The policy has been revised twice and is undergoing another review. The policy is available on our diocesan website: dioceseofjoliet.org.
A special review committee, including a former judge, a psychiatrist, two professional counselors and a priest, evaluates all of the allegations received. When a credible allegation is made, the accused is removed from his present assignment, an evaluation is ordered and the Department of Children and Family Services is notified when required.
My concern is for the welfare of all of our children. I want the diocese to ensure that all children are safe from sexual abuse. For a number of years all of our seminarian and diaconal candidates have undergone psychological testing before admission. We will continue to monitor our priests, deacons and seminarians to ensure the safety of our children.
The sexual abuse of individuals is both harmful and sinful. The reports of clerical sexual abuse are not only disturbing to the faithful, they are also damaging and embarrassing to the vast majority of our good priests who have committed themselves to daily service of our people. We need to support priests whose ministry has been diminished by the terrible acts of a few priests.
If there is anyone who has suffered abuse from a member of the clergy, I ask you to please come forward. The diocese wishes to offer professional counseling assistance to you.
I affirm the five principles first announced by the bishops in 1992:
1. Respond promptly to all allegations of abuse where there is reason to believe that abuse has occurred.
2. If such an allegation is supported by sufficient evidence, relieve the alleged offender promptly from his ministerial duties and refer him for appropriate medical evaluation and intervention.
3. Comply with the obligations of civil law as regards to reporting of the incident and cooperating with the investigation.
4. Reach out to the victims and their families and communicate sincere commitment to their spiritual and emotional well being.
5. Within the confines of respect for privacy of the individuals involved, deal as openly as possible with the members of the community.
I ask your prayers for everyone in these troubling times.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph L. Imesch
Bishop of Joliet.
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