Florida Catholic [Orlando FL]
April 22, 2021
By Bob Reddy
For the past 14 years Bishop Frank J. Dewane has held a Mass to petition for the Lord to heal and protect the victims of clerical abuse while giving the grace for all to act in helping end this scourge.
“Whatever procedure, educational announcement, commitment we make, or administrative mechanisms we put forward are all powerless compared to the strength of our prayers through our gathering at this Holy Sacrifice, at this Table of the Lord, asking the Lord to heal the victims of abuse,” Bishop Dewane stated.
The Bishop celebrated Mass April 16, 2021 at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice with the specific intention of praying for victims of child abuse. The Mass takes place annually in April, which is National Child Abuse Awareness Prevention Month, as Bishop leads the faithful in praying for an end to child abuse, and specifically the clerical abuse which has been a scourge on the Catholic Church.
In asking the Lord to heal all victims of abuse, the Church is also called to be part of the solution in addressing sexual abuse.
“The gravity of the phenomena of abuse is known to all, and the evil is clearly seen as something that scars individuals for life,” Bishop Dewane said. “For the sins that the Church has committed – including the exploitation of truly vulnerable individuals that are scarred for life – we ask the Lord’s forgiveness. Because we believe in the sanctity of the individual, the person, must always be foremost our priority consideration.”
The Bishop noted that much has been improved in the Church’s handling of abuse cases since 2002 when wide-ranging mechanisms were put in place to help protect children and the vulnerable, but it did not stop the abuse completely. In addition, the refusal to act or efforts to conceal abuse cases by some in power have undercut the Church’s credibility.
“For this I stand before you and acknowledge the human dimension of the Church – clergy and Bishops – have failed without a doubt. That is why we have to continue to face this,” Bishop Dewane continued. “While things have greatly improved – one case is one case too many.”
The Bishop reminded everyone that as faithful Catholics we each have our individual role in helping to end abuse.
“Bishops can never say enough about the pain and sorrow that has been caused by the tragedy of abuse; a tragedy of broken fidelity and trust toward individuals,” Bishop Dewane said. “I ask for forgiveness from those who have been harmed, scandalized, dispirited; those who have been sexually abused by clergy and bishops. The sorrow and pain of those who we serve is clear and it is we who have to act as soon as we learn of something in a most responsible and expedient way.”
Among the continuing actions taken by the Diocese of Venice to combat child abuse is the Safe Environment Program. This includes thoroughly screening and evaluating the background of all diocesan employees — clergy, religious and laity — and volunteers who work with children and young people. The program educates thousands about the issue of abuse of children, including the detection, prevention and reporting of child abuse.
The Bishop also explained the role of the Diocesan Review Board, a consultative body that independently advises the Bishop regarding the assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests. The Review Board consists of lay professionals and a Diocesan priest and makes recommendations of action. The Bishop does not participate in the Review Board process.
As strong as these efforts are in creating a safe environment within the Diocese, Bishop Dewane says it is up to everyone – each according to their role – to come face to face with the reality of child abuse in the Church and society as a whole.
“We also have to be honest that many people have been hurt gravely and severely and each one of us must do our part in helping the healing process of all victims while also being aware of our individual responsibilities in preventing this scourge from continuing.”
For more detailed information about what the Diocese of Venice does to prevent abuse or how to sign up for a Safe Environment class, visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/safeenvironment. Report any abuse against minors to the Florida Department of Children and Families at 800-962-2873. Further, if Diocesan personnel or volunteers are involved, also notify the Diocesan Victims Assistance Coordinator, Susan Benton, at 941-416-6114.