Bishop Finn's Update to the Faithful Concerning Recent Abuse Settlements

By Bishop Robert W. Finn
The Catholic Key

August 28, 2008

Over the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to speak on behalf of our Diocese to individuals harmed by our clergy or former clergy. I have offered an apology to them, and before our whole community, for the fully unacceptable behavior that prompted serious grievances to be brought against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. With compassion for the victims of this behavior and with sadness over any failure by the Diocese to serve as a proper steward of safety and security for our young people and our parishioners, I expressed a sense of institutional accountability for these sad events.

In reaching a settlement with lawyers representing the families involved in these cases, we took painstaking steps to fully vet all issues. Thoroughness was the hallmark of this process, and the agreement represented a resolution of all existing claims against the Diocese and the individual clergy named.

After taking the matter to the Diocesan Finance Council and the Board of Consultors, we agreed to fund $10 million in payments to the victims. The settlement proceeds are to be divided among 47 plaintiffs by means of an independent and binding arbitration process. Based on advice from legal counsel and on prayerful reflection over this most difficult matter, I believe that this settlement, while costly, is a responsible resolution for these individuals and their families and in the best interest of the Diocese. Elsewhere in The Catholic Key today I explain where this money comes from and how it will affect the Diocese.

We also have pledged to do all in our power to show our resolve as a Diocese to exercise continued vigilance and a commitment to ongoing training and education, so that we may be confident there will never, ever be a repeat of the behaviors, the offenses, or the claims that have been associated with this matter.

Over the last five years the Diocese has cooperated fully with all the elements of the United States Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. We have trained more than 12,000 adults: teachers, coaches, parish staff and volunteers, to be careful and responsible monitors, looking out for the safety of our young people. We have also offered annual awareness education to 16,000 students in our schools and Parish Schools of Religion. Parents have received materials so that they can discuss and reinforce these programs at home. We will continue to do these things, and more, to raise awareness, and provide a safe environment.

As has been the case in the past, priests who are credibly accused of these incidents will not be allowed any public ministry, and I have already asked the Diocesan Tribunal to begin to review the details of each individual case under my jurisdiction. The seriousness of certain of these incidents warrants a recommendation of laicization to the Vatican.

These incidents have been painful for the victims and their families, for priests not involved in these incidents who have served faithfully, and for the whole Church.

Although we have apologized for any responsibility the Diocese might have had for its insensitivity to conditions that may have created the opportunity for these incidents, we cannot change what may have happened in the past. Nor, I must add, should we ever forget it.

We must resist the temptation to be either defensive or accusatory, but should instead strive to the higher purposes and good enabled by compassion and forgiveness. We must not stigmatize victims as we endeavor to bring about a responsible and serene new beginning. We must get on with our lives without being infected by the poison of resentment or regret.

In a few weeks, on the weekend of September 13-14, the Church will celebrate the solemn feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross, which mark's Christ's supreme act of redemption: through the Cross and suffering He opens the way to new life.

I have asked the pastor of every parish in our Diocese to set aside one Mass that weekend for the special intention of healing, reconciliation, and peace for our Diocese. This will be an opportunity for each of us to offer the fervent prayers of our hearts for all those who have been harmed, for their families and loved ones, and in 'repair' or reparation for the damage caused to the whole Body of Christ by these sins.

As bishop of this Diocese, I pledge my commitment to our parishes, and our community encircling those parishes, that we will and can recover from these dark moments of our history, that the light of God can prevent such darkness from ever eclipsing us again, and that the Church will remain an inviolate sanctuary for healing, for spiritual renewal, and for love.


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