Guest Perspective: Sins of the past continue to haunt Catholic church

News & Citizen

August 29, 2019

By Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

[See the report that Coyne references.]

The Diocese of Burlington this week published a report listing the names of diocesan clergy who, since 1950, have had a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor made against them. With one exception, all of these acts occurred more than 20 years ago.

None of these priests is in ministry; most of them are deceased. While most of these allegations took place at least a generation ago, the numbers are still staggering. The victims of these priests are still bearing the wounds of what happened to them. Until now, the scope of all of this has been our “family secret.”

Family secrets can be toxic. Harmful past experiences — unspoken, unaddressed and known only by a few — fester like neglected wounds. The innocent victims of the family secret are often made to feel ashamed about what happened as no one seems to listen to them or even, sadly at times, believe them. While these secrets remain hidden, those who have been hurt are often unable to find the healing they need, especially if those who harmed them are still “part” of the family, even if only in memory.

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