3 Takeaways from Bishop Coyne's Blog about Response to Priest Abuse Scandal

Burlington Free Press
September 4, 2018

Pope Francis said at the start of a visit to Ireland on Saturday that he shares the outrage of rank-and-file Catholics over the failure of church authorities to punish the "repugnant crimes" of priests who raped and molested children. (Aug. 25) AP

The Roman Catholic bishop of Burlington outlined steps in a blog post Tuesday to address the damage caused by new revelations of sex abuse committed by priests and even bishops.

Here are three takeaways:

1. There is no denying the obvious anymore.

Bishop Christopher Coyne minced no words in his blog.

"Over the last six weeks, new revelations of scandalous and even criminal activity by bishops and priests have deeply angered and shaken all of us," Coyne wrote.

Strong words. And here's why. In just the past month:

A grand jury in Pennsylvania released findings that about 1,000 youths had been sexually abused by a total of about 300 priests over a period of decades.

A BuzzFeed News report detailed physical abuse of children in the Catholic orphanage system, including at the former St. Joseph's Orphanage in Burlington.

A former Vatican ambassador accused Pope Francis of being aware that a key church figure had engaged in sex abuse and yet took no action.

When the orphanage abuse allegations first emerged in the 1990s, the Diocese of Burlington sought to deny and minimize the accusations for some time. And when the Boston Globe "Spotlight" team first unearthed evidence of sexual abuse of minors by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston, the Catholic Church responded tentatively at first.

Coyne's response, acknowledging "scandal" and "criminal activity" and that Catholics are "deeply angered and shaken," is quite different. It is evidence he is aware Catholics are worn down by many years of evidence of abuse by leaders of local parishes in decades past.

2. A premium on action, not merely words

Bishop Coyne writes of responding 'prayerfully, pastorally, and administratively to the scandals."

The key word there is "responding."

Remember, it is 25 years since the orphanage abuse became public and 16 years since the priest abuse cases became known. It is evidently no longer enough -- in the eyes of church faithful or its leaders -- merely to settle with survivors of abuse, say a few prayers and pretend nothing happened.

"We obviously must address the problems that have come to light in the recent scandals and how we move forward, together, as a Church," Coyne writes.

He continues: "While this fresh moment of crisis calls us firstly to a spirit of prayer, it also demands action: both to work toward justice and healing for victims, and toward a broader commitment to renewal and change in how the Church’s leaders serve you, the People of God."

3. The diocese is moving quickly. Very quickly.

A church with a 2,000-year history is known for deliberating courses of action at a seemingly glacial pace. Coyne's blog speaks of steps taking place in real time.

He said priests began meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss how the Diocese of Burlington should respond.

He said men and women who represent various parishes in the diocese will meet Saturday to look at the recommendations the priests make.

'Men of God hid it all': Church protected 300 'predator priests'

He said he would bring the recommendations of his priests and parishioners when he meets with U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Sept. 11 and 12 in Washington D.C.

For the church, that is lightning speed.








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