Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for your presence this afternoon.
This has been an intensive process and a painful one. Reading the grand
jury report is indeed very distressing. I acknowledge the pain and suffering
of the victims of clergy sexual abuse, and to them I repeat my heartfelt
and sincere apologies and deep regrets. The grand jury report details
cases and numbers but I know that there is a real person behind every
story and pain carried in every heart. I have met with victims and heard
firsthand of their suffering and humiliation. They had their youth violated
and their vulnerability exploited. The Church repeats its deep regrets
and sorrow with the assurance of prayers and continued efforts for healing
and new life.
My brother priests share this pain and sorrow. It is important for
me to speak directly to the overwhelming majority of priests who faithfully
serve the Church. To them I would say, I am grateful for your priestly
service and regret that this tragedy diverted attention from all of
the splendid work that you do. Thank you for your dedication to the
faithful of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
As difficult a moment as this is, I want it to be known that the Archdiocese
has cooperated fully with the grand jury. We produced more than 45,000
documents. Representatives of the Archdiocese willingly testified on
numerous occasions. Knowledgeable legal experts tell me that the Archdiocese
of Philadelphia has been more responsive than is the case in other places
where there were significantly more victims and perpetrators. In the
end, the grand jury affirms the actions already taken by the Archdiocese
to report any instances of abuse to the proper legal authorities and
to safeguard young people. We have taken extraordinary steps in this
regard. In the time since the grand jury was convened to examine the
past, the Archdiocese has established programs and procedures to protect
young people in the future. Much of what we have done was recommended
by our own blue ribbon panel, chaired by Ms. Helen Alvaré, a
respected attorney. The Alvaré Commission worked for ten months
during 2002 to evaluate Archdiocesan policies and procedures related
to clerical misconduct.
Some of our efforts include:
• Safe environment training for almost 40,000 adults. This
training is for those involved in Archdiocesan ministry and service
to young people and is ongoing.
• We have also instituted safe environment training for young
people: almost 110,000 young people received grade-appropriate lessons
concerning personal boundaries and healthy relationships.
• I continue to offer to meet with any victim just as my predecessor
Cardinal Bevilacqua did.
• We established a Victims Assistance Coordinators Program.
Our coordinators are licensed professionals who respond with appropriate
care to those victimized by sexual abuse. In fact, I ask you, the
media, to publish once again the number for anyone who might not have
heard it or read it previously. It is 215-587-3880. And just as we
have done on many occasions, I would urge anyone to call that number
who wishes to report sexual abuse of a minor.
• We also have established an Archdiocesan Review Board made
up of Catholics and non-Catholics, all of whom have expertise in this
area. The Review Board serves as a consultative body and advises me
in cases of allegations of abuse. They also review Archdiocesan policies
• As we implemented Standards of Ministerial Behavior to provide
a blueprint for boundaries of behavior with young people, and we have
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is committed to the letter and spirit
of the Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young
People, which was adopted in June 2002. But it is important to note
that even prior to the adoption of the Charter, the Archdiocese had
acted on every single allegation involving sexual misconduct with a
The Church has always viewed sexual abuse of a young person as a grave
moral evil. In order to evaluate these situations we relied upon the
medical expertise of that time. Today, science better understands abusive
behavior. We continue to practice zero tolerance: no priest who has
sexually abused a minor will serve in any ministry in the Archdiocese
Our reporting policies have also been revised. We immediately report
all accusations to civil authorities. We recognize that we cannot be
the only investigators. But it is still important to note that the Archdiocese
complied at all times with Pennsylvania law. The Archdiocese is not
aware of any circumstances where a report was not made in accordance
with the reporting obligations of the Child Protective Services Law.
And as we go forward, I assure you that I remain committed to creating
a safe environment for all of the children in the care of the Archdiocese.
I pledge that we will do whatever is humanly possible so that no child
ever comes to harm again.
And actually I made this pledge the day of my installation a little
less than two years ago when I mentioned that it is the commitment of
the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It renews its resolve and its efforts
for the protection of children against whatever would harm them, abuse
them, or violate their sacred dignity.
Thank you very much.