DIOCESE OF PHOENIX AZ
The report marks one more necessary step forward. It is not the last step. On the basis of this report, which will be available to all for further study and analysis, we can be still more effective in correcting mistakes of the past, in insuring safe environments in all our parishes and institutions, and in promoting further healing and hope. I trust this report will even be helpful to other institutions in facing similar problems.
From the time that the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted, June 2002, many other things have been done to respond decisively to child abuse by the clergy and to prevent it happening again. Background checks are required now of all employees of the Church and all applicants for the priesthood and religious life.
In every diocese across the nation, extensive Safe Environment Training has taken place, Review Boards have been established to offer expert advice on the implementation of the Charter, Youth Protection Advocates (also known as Victim Assistance Coordinators) have been appointed to work with victims and their families, and protocols have been established for good cooperation with law enforcement and other civic officials. Working with those leaders, we plan on May 20th to premier a “Summit”, a statewide conference on sexual abuse. These and other efforts will continue in the future.
In the Diocese of Phoenix, there were 19 priests who were accused of sexual abuse of minors. Sad to say, we know of 73 victims who have suffered from this tragedy. The financial costs to our Diocese are approximately $2.7 million in settlements and counseling for victims. These painful facts reinforce our resolve to prevent this sin and crime from happening in the future.
The report is one more stage in a whole process of purification, conversion and renewal.
We feel humiliation in the public disclosure of our sinfulness and remorse for what we have done as sinners. The devastating impact of sin stands out starkly in cases of child abuse. Both victim and perpetrator are diminished in its wake. But the immensity of sins’ damage is not the end of the story for it is overcome by the love of Christ in His Passion and Resurrection.
The number is the first comprehensive tally of abusive priests who have served in Arizona. The total was developed in advance of a national report on the nature and scope of clergy abuse in the United States, which is expected to indicate at least 5,000 priests abused 12,000 victims.
That report, based on numbers calculated by each diocese, will be released Friday.
In Arizona, the Diocese of Tucson reported 27 accused priests and the Diocese of Phoenix reported 18. The Diocese of Gallup, N.M., had six abusive priests who served in Apache and Navajo counties in Arizona.
The Byzantine Eparchy of Van Nuys, a branch of the Catholic Church that evolved in the Orthodox tradition, reported no allegations. It is based in Phoenix.
Victim advocates are not convinced that the numbers, which exceed any reported previously by victim groups or the media, are accurate.
Dioceses throughout the country have been releasing similar information in advance of the national survey. Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has said results will be devastating.
Diocesan representatives declined comment until Friday.
All three dioceses previously identified abusive priests. None listed any not already identified. None listed is currently working in ministry.
In the Phoenix Diocese, cases that were "credibly accused" could range from those handled internally to those involving priests who've gone to prison.
A local member of Voice of the Faithful, a lay reform group formed as the scandal broke, would not talk until the report is issued.
But Paul Pfaffenberger, local leader of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said he doubted, "based on past experience," that the Phoenix report is accurate.
"The diocese has had a long history of reporting only those cases that have been public through litigation, criminal charges, or the media," he said.
Other issues with the study:
Thomas Plante, a psychologist at the Santa Clara University in California, who has worked with dioceses and treated both abusive priests and victims, said the report "will be another earthquake in a series of earthquakes."
"People will read the numbers and the headlines, 5,000 priests and 12,000 victims, and be depressed, saddened and upset," Plante said.
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