Pain, sorrow of abuse revelations must be followed by action

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Over the last several weeks, I have followed the news about the sexual misconduct allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the horrific cases of clergy sexual abuse documented in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. I am pained and saddened by these revelations. While our Church has implemented important measures in the last decade and a half to foster safe environments for youth and vulnerable adults — and I do believe we have made significant progress in this area — we obviously need to do more, and we need to do better, to protect everyone from harm as well as hold Church leadership accountable.

No youth or adult should be subjected to sexual abuse or sexual harassment from anyone, especially a member of the clergy — priest, bishop or cardinal. This behavior is abhorrent, it is a sin, and it violates everything a religious vocation stands for. People are rightly angered and disillusioned when they continue to hear news about clergy abuse and the failure of Church authorities to properly address allegations, pursue justice and promote healing. This must end.

I support Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in his call to adopt a plan at this fall’s U.S. bishops’ meeting that fixes these failures and holds bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability. It is important for lay people — not just bishops — to be involved in this process in order to make credible, effective and lasting reforms. I also support Pope Francis’ call for the Church to join in acts of prayer and fasting in combatting all forms of abuse.

I apologize to all those who have suffered abuse and for those times a bishop or other Church leader failed to do the right thing, and I encourage anyone who has been abused to come forward. Contact information for victim advocates and county officials is available on our website: http://stcdio.org/about/safe-environment/how-to-report-abuse. I pray that victims and survivors will find healing and strength from our loving God, who never abandons those who suffer. At the same, I know that prayers and apologies alone are not enough. Repentance must be followed by positive action.

These are difficult times for our own diocese as well. We are preparing to enter bankruptcy reorganization because of abuse against minors committed in the past by members of the clergy. I removed one of our priests from ministry earlier this year following his arrest for alleged sexual misconduct involving an adult woman. The diocese continues to cooperate fully with civil authorities in this matter as it moves through the judicial process. When these proceedings have concluded, I will initiate an independent inquiry to determine what, if any, further action is warranted. I am waiting until the conclusion of the criminal case because I do not want to interfere in any way, or create any appearance of interfering, with those proceedings. I promise to keep you updated on these matters as much as possible.

Christ demands much of those called to serve him, and I remain grateful for the many good and faithful priests who are doing wonderful ministry in our parishes and diocese. They are hurting, too, and sometimes feel they minister under a cloud of undeserved suspicion. I want to support them any way I can. Please also keep our seminarians in your prayer intentions as they continue to discern their call. I am committed to ensuring that their academic and spiritual formation happens in a safe and respectful environment.

Our diocese continues to operate under the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and its accompanying norms as well as with our Diocesan Review Board and victim advocates. We also recently streamlined our safe environment reporting process, which I believe will further improve the system. In the interest of transparency, I released a list four and half years ago of clergy likely to have abused minors in our diocese. The list is updated as needed (http://stcdio.org/list-clergy-likely-abused-minors). All of these efforts make a positive contribution to the safety of everyone and the health of our Church.

Now and in the coming months, please pray for me and my brother bishops as we address our shortcomings, work to mend what is broken and hold ourselves more accountable to the people of God. We are a Church of hope. We are a church in need of renewal and conversion. Even in dark times, we know the light of Christ will shine through and lead the way.

 

Sincerely yours in Christ,

+Donald J. Kettler
Bishop of Saint Cloud

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The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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