Bishop Accountability


Accused Priests: 13
Total Priests: 493 (of which 461 diocesan and 32 religious order priests)
Allegations: 48 (of which 3 were "shown to be false" and 12 were "withdrawn")
Cost: $5,800,000 ($4,900,000 in settlements and legal costs, and $900,000 in pastoral care for victims and priests)
Sources of Funds: The diocese paid $1,200,000 in settlements and legal fees; insurers paid $3,700,000 in settlements)

See Bishop Bernard Harrington's article in the September 2003 Courier, the Winona diocesan newspaper.

See Cathy Lynn Grossman, Survey: More Clergy Abuse Cases Than Previously Thought (2/10/04) with AP table of data for 74 dioceses.

Bishop Harrington's Monthly Message
As the Spirit Goes

The Courier (diocesan newspaper)
March 2004 [accessed 3/25/04]

Are we deaf to the grace of Lent?

Bishop Kenneth Povish, former Bishop of Lansing MI, died last September. He was Bishop of the Crookston, MN diocese in the early 1970s. He was a great writer and has left us a series of pithy spiritual sayings.

About Ash Wednesday, he said "We have to be 'deaf to grace' if we cannot hear our God summon us to whole-hearted worship and service on this first day of the Forty Days of Lent".

About Lent in general he said, "Going without meat for one day makes me realize how much I like it and how readily available it is. This can lead me to say 'Thanks, Lord.' As much as I want that sandwich at Arby's or a pepperoni from Domino's, my being able to deny myself means that I can control my desires and that my desires don't control me.

"Being a little hungry one day a week gets me in touch with the feelings of people who spend most of their lives hungry. I am building a spiritual bond, solidarity, with them.

Finally, eating less is not just a religious diet or a way to save money. Try to give this little bit of hunger to God as a prayer for peace. So you see, a meatless Friday can go a long way. It gives us an opportunity to take charge of our life. It is an offering of our will power, one of God's great gifts to us."

In these two little statements, Bishop Povish caught the whole emphasis of what Lent ought to be in our personal lives.

Unfortunately, so many Catholics today are "deaf to the grace" of Lent. God speaks to us in such simple ways. Lent has always been part of our Catholic spirituality. Ashes on Wednesday and Palms on Sunday seem almost marks of identification that I am Catholic. The six weeks of Lent are a constant reminder that I need to follow Jesus and I need to do penance in my personal life. A Catholic who does not keep Lent is like the athlete who eats too much, does not practice and is not motivated fat, flabby and slow.

Ashes are both a symbol and a commitment

When the Ashes are placed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday, we hear the words "Turn away from sin and believe in the gospel." The warning of Jesus, "if you do not do penance, you shall perish!" rings in our ears. You and I need Lent. We need to curb our desires and our passions so they do not lead us, but we lead them. Lent is indispensable for each of us in our personal quest for holiness.

Friday abstinence during Lent is part of our Catholic heritage. The Bishops of the United States, in their 1983 pastoral letter "The Challenge of Peace," introduced a new insight and motive for keeping weekly abstinence. "We call upon our people voluntarily to do penance on Friday by eating less food and by abstaining from meat. Each Friday should be a day significantly devoted to prayer, penance and almsgiving for peace.

If this instruction was valid in 1983, how much more today! Each evening on national news, we hear again of additional American soldiers being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Abstinence and fasting are positive steps in creating an atmosphere of prayer for peace.

On top of that, the Bishops in their annual Lenten regulations state that "no Catholic would lightly dispense themselves from the Friday abstinence during the season of Lent."

Lent is spiritual, not just practical

Lent is not merely a spiritual South Beach or Atkin's diet time. It is not undertaken with the idea that we can save money by eating less. Dieting and saving may be valuable assets, but the spiritual aspect is deeper. We fast and abstain because we need to do penance. We imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in the desert. We fight off the temptation of the devil who continually calls us to be self-centered, lazy and content. We need to have solidarity with the poor. We need to be reminded that we are the rich man at the abundant table who refuses to share our food with Lazarus, the poor man. We need to have the Rice Bowl on our tables to remind us of the poor.

We all need Lent. As Bishop Povish said (God rest his soul) "Lent is a time when we let the Divine Gardener and Vinedresser work on us. Let the Lord work on you!"

The John Jay Study

Two years ago, the Catholic Church in the United States was confronted with the news that the Archdiocese of Boston had seriously erred in dealing with some priests who had been guilty of child sexual abuse. Soon after, several other dioceses were found to have similarly failed their trust. The scandal that ensued was extremely painful as were the lessons we learned from it.

Over the past fifteen years or so, the Church has spoken out on this issue many times. We bishops, both as a national conference and in our individual dioceses, have put in place policies and procedures that address the wide range of sexual abuse and misconduct. Imperfect as those policies and procedures have often been, they have been effective. In June of 2002 the bishops took another step by creating the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and a process by which all dioceses would be held accountable for observing it.

In a recent audit of all dioceses in the country, the Diocese of Winona was found to be in full compliance with the Charter in terms of our sexual misconduct policies, our outreach to victims, and our efforts to create safe environments for our children.

But as we've learned over the last two years, much more needs to be done. No problem can be solved without knowing all the facts, which is why the Catholic bishops also asked for independent studies to (1) determine the extent of the problem and (2) discover the causes and nature of it. The findings of the first of these the John Jay Study-- will have been released nationally on Friday, February 26, after this issue of The Courier is in the mail. It provides figures for sexual abuse cases involving priests over a 50-year time span.

The report does not break down numbers by individual dioceses; rather, it provides statistics in the aggregate for all 195 dioceses in the country. In September of last year I provided those numbers for the Diocese of Winona in our diocesan newspaper, The Courier [see the copy of that article, linked above]. They showed that 33 credible allegations of sexaul abuse were made involving 13 priests. The last alleged incident of such abuse occurring in our diocese was nearly twenty years ago.

But to compare our diocese with others is not my intent. Whether it be one case or one hundred cases, the evil of abuse must be completely eradicated. Eradicated not only from our Church, but from our society at large.

As I write this, I have not yet seen the statistics provided by the John Jay report. But I do see an urgent need for other institutions to examine themselves as we have done. We need to have a complete picture of the problem if we are to solve it once and for all. If we see that a certain percentage of the clergy are guilty of perpetrating such acts, how does that compare with the numbers found in society at large? What causes them to act in such a way? How can we do more to change their behavior?

The Church is working hard to do its homework on this issue. Now it is my hope that other institutions throughout the country health care facilities, schools, colleges, day care centers, youth organizations, government facilities and workplaces in general follow the Church's example and work with us to make sure all children and young people are never again victimized by those in whom they place their trust.

Generations of Faith

Over the past six months, I have been hearing more and more from parishes who are implementing an inter-generational approach to faith formation called, "Generations of Faith." Currently this process is being used in 12 parishes across the diocese, and another 15 are being trained in the process this year. After this year, more than a fourth of our parishes will have incorporated this approach to engage families more fully in their children's faith formation.

Everything I hear about this process is positive. There seems to be a new energy and vitality in the faith for the whole parish. Three parishes have dropped their weekly classroom based faith formation program in favor of this family approach--Sacred Heart, Waseca; Saint John's, Mankato, and Saint Theodore's, Albert Lea. Other parishes are slowly implementing two or three inter-generational events during the year.

What interests me in this approach is its focus on the liturgical season. In planning an inter-generational event, the parish selects a particular liturgical theme, like Lent or Triduum, to highlight about 2-3 weeks before the actual liturgical event to prepare parishioners to more fully participate in the feast. As a result, many parishes are seeing increased participation because people more fully understand the feast.

I thank Mark Nuehring, our Director of Faith Formation, for introducing this process to our parishes. We have long believed that parents are the primary educators of faith, but have been slow to understand how we must work with parents to do that. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops encourages adult faith formation as a priority and, as you certainly know through the Seeds of Faith endowment for faith formation, that it is also a priority of mine..

Everyone in the parish, no matter what age, can benefit from additional learning in our faith through "Generations of Faith." I hope you take advantage of this opportunity if it is present in your parish.

May you all have a good and blessed Lent.

+Bernard J. Harrington
Bishop of Winona

Winona diocese details sexual abuse allegations, costs for past 50 years

By Associated Press, carried in the Winona Daily News
September 10, 2003

The Diocese of Winona revealed in its first public accounting of sexual abuse allegations that 13 diocesan priests had 48 allegations of sexual abuse of minors brought against them during the past 50 years.

Bishop Bernard Harrington reported figures in this month's issue of the diocese's official newspaper, The Courier. Three allegations were shown to be false and 12 were withdrawn. Harrington noted that the last case of abuse occurred in 1984.

The Roman Catholic diocese's insurance companies have also paid $3.7 million in settlements during the past 15 years resulting from "abuse by clergy, religious, or lay employees who are employed by the Diocese or its parishes and institutions," Harrington wrote. Of that amount, $3.5 million was paid before 1993 in a case against "one accused perpetrator."

In the last 15 years, the diocese itself paid $1.2 million in legal costs and settlements related to abuse, Harrington said, with all but $100,000 of that amount going to the victims of the same unnamed "accused perpetrator" before 1993. The diocese also paid an additional $900,000 in the past 15 years in "pastoral care" costs, including counseling and therapy, for those affected by abuse, including priests, Harrington wrote.

The bishop said money from the diocese's annual fund-raising drive and from its "Seeds of Faith" capital campaign are "restricted funds" and can't be used to pay abuse-related costs.

The diocese released information on costs related to abuse cases over the past 15 years because that's the furthest back for which reasonably accurate court-cost records could be found, said diocese spokesman Ivan Kubista.

The 50-year time period for the number of past allegations and number of accused priests matches the time period covered in a recent national study mandated by the National Review Board, an oversight body established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Winona Voice of the Faithful, the local affiliate of a national lay group formed last year in response to the sex-abuse crisis, has pressured the Diocese of Winona since late last year to release information on the extent and cost of past sex-abuse allegations.

Winona Voice of the Faithful leader Jim Allaire said the group was happy with the release of information. "The increased publicity is a welcome step, and it's a good first step along a road that's got many miles to go," he said.

Harrington wrote that even one case of sexual abuse of a minor is too many, but numbers released by the diocese this month suggest that the problem is less prevalent in the Catholic church than in society at large.

"It is important to remember that we have not had a case involving clergy misconduct with minors for nearly two decades," he wrote. "We will do whatever we can to ensure that such instances remain only in the past."




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