Bishop Accountability
  Diocese Comes Around to Compassion

Quad-City Times
February 3, 2004

A veil of secrecy and shame is being lifted slowly off the Davenport Diocese by the persistent cries for help from victims and now a compassionate, merciful public response from diocese priests.

An apology issued Thursday by diocesean priests spared nothing: “A gigantic betrayal of trust.” “Hideous nature of sexual abuse.” “Unimaginable pain.” The priests will affirm their apology with a public service scheduled for 4 p.m., Tuesday, March 30 at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Victims, priests and anyone interested will be able to meet face-to-face in a healing service that is nothing short of extraordinary. The initiative of the priests to hold the service effectively ends the diocesean posture that sexual abuse horrors of the past were matters to be handled secretly with an emphasis on legal liability.

It is important — though, the priests say, not telling — that the service comes under the authority of the Priest’s Council, not the bishop. The bishop’s initiative to bring in outside help to counsel victims and investigate allegations shows the bishop, too, finally is hearing what congregations have been saying.

Father Robert McAleer, chairman of the diocese Presbyteral Council says, healing is the domain of the parish priest. “That’s what we do.”

There is much work to do.

Eleven pending lawsuits may have led the diocese and some in the public to view this as a legal issue.

It is — now. Some of the lawsuits came only after attempts by victims to enage the diocese failed. Those injured by the abuse and the years of denial afterward have shoved the diocese in a difficult but essential direction of disclosure and healing. The diocese seems to be hearing the outcry. Though undoubtedly uncomfortable, those afflicted must see it as essential for Bishop William Franklin to be present at church services and meetings on sexual abuse.

The service would seem to show that the diocese is getting the message that the litigants aren’t tearing down the church. They are building it up on it’s traditional foundation: Compassion. Prayer. Reconciliation. Faith.

And forgiveness.


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