Ten Years After Dallas

Catholic Sentinel

Most Rev. John Vlazny
Archbishop of Portland

We American bishops held our spring assembly in Atlanta earlier this month. That meeting marked the tenth anniversary of the approval by the American bishops in Dallas of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. When we bishops from the Pacific Northwest walked into our meeting room for a regional discussion, we found a bulletin from Atlanta’s “Voice of the Faithful,” telling us that, “the Charter to Protect Children and Young People is still fundamentally flawed.” VOF stated that the reforms were “not significant,” bishops still don’t welcome people who speak the truth about abuse, and there has been no cooperation with the recommendations from the bishops’ own National Review Board.

On the other hand, during the Atlanta meeting all bishops received a ten-year progress report on the Charter from our own National Review Board. In the report the members stated, “Ten years later, there has been striking improvement in the church’s response to and treatment of victims. Children are safer now because of the creation of safe environments and action has been taken to permanently remove offenders from ministry. Yet, much work still needs to be done.” The NRB reminded the bishops that we should never let our guard down. Vigilance should never be taken for granted, or worse, watered down.

Over the past ten years, more than 15,000 victims have come forward in Catholic dioceses across the USA to tell their secret about the abuse they suffered in childhood. The John Jay Study of the Nature and Scope of the Abuse reported that incidents of abuse began to rise in the 60s, peaked in the 70s and declined sharply in the 80s. Even the most recent reports tend to fall into that same pattern. In other words, most of the abuse is past history, but victims back then are still hurting. We can never presume that similar mistakes won’t be made again in the future.

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