DIOCESE OF SYRACUSE NY
The John Jay Study is a study that I and the other U.S. bishops called for in our “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” As I stated in our own report issued on January 4 and 5, 2004, our diocese participated in the study and determined that 49 priests have been accused over the course of 52 years, 16 priests have been permanently removed from ministry in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, 13 priests are under investigation and 5 priests have been cleared as a result of the investigations to date.
Nationwide the cost to our church for these crimes was more than 500 million dollars. As I also reported previously, the cost to this diocese as of December 2003 was $771,124.00 all of which was paid from the diocesan protected self-insurance fund. Parish resources were not tapped nor were other funds designated for specific purposes, eg. Hope Appeal and Heritage Campaign funds.
The John Jay College study also demonstrates a sharp decline in the number of more recent cases. While of small comfort, this is a sign that the steps which the bishops have been taking in the last decade have made a positive impact in dealing with this terrible problem. Gratefully, we have seen that trend here in our own diocese.
This painful study, and the accompanying report of the National Review Board which we bishops set up, will provide us with additional help in reaching a decisive resolution of this problem. Tragically, the phenomenon of child sexual abuse crosses all levels of society. It takes place in every setting: homes, schools, camps, churches – wherever young people are found. We hope that with information from this study, our Church can continue to take the steps needed to guarantee the protection of children not only in our churches and schools but everywhere in society where disturbed people would seek to do them harm.
To address this problem, in this diocese we have already established educational programs so that clergy, diocesan personnel, parents, and children know what constitutes sexual abuse and how to prevent it. Over 5,500 individuals have been trained in our Protecting God’s Children program since its inception in October 2003. Criminal background checks and rigorous reference checks are now mandated for all employees and volunteers who work directly with children. We have a victims’ assistance coordinator, Teresa Secreti, to help bring about the healing needed by persons sexually abused by church personnel. We have a well-experienced Diocesan Review Board to examine accusations of abuse and to advise me on the disposition of such cases. Healing services have been held in all regions of the diocese, and I continue to ask all persons who have knowledge of abuse to come forward so the matter can be addressed immediately.
We are also committed to careful screening and formation of candidates for Holy Orders. The priesthood must be above reproach, and every Catholic, young or old, must have confidence in the people called by God to lead them to Him. There is no doubt that the vast majority of priests in this diocese and in every diocese have led and still lead holy, exemplary lives, committing themselves to serve God’s people. This stain on the priesthood has hurt them profoundly.
I take this moment to say I am sorry for any failings real or perceived that I or any bishop of this diocese has ever been guilty of in addressing this problem. Catholics of this diocese and throughout the country have been pained and embarrassed by this crisis, and for that I am deeply, personally saddened.
I want to thank all those who have helped me and our local church in addressing this problem. Your words of encouragement and supportive actions have helped start our journey of healing.
Note: To acquire a copy of the diocesan Report to the People on Clergy
Sexual Abuse of Minors in the Diocese of Syracuse, the diocesan Child
& Youth Protection Policy, and all other policies relating to Safe
Environment and the upcoming trainings to date, go to www.syracusediocese.org.
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