Skip to comments.Putting [Priest Abuse] Reports in Perspective
Posted on 02/19/2004 6:21:42 PM PST by ninenot
Fasten your seat belts! On Friday, February 27, we bishops will release the reports we commissioned a year and a half ago to study the scope and nature of the horrible scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. The release of these two reports, commissioned by the National Review Board one, by the John Jay Institute on the number of victims and offenders, and the cost to the Church, and the second, on what led to the crisis will, I am afraid, "pick open the scab" that was beginning to heal, and push the terrible bad news of the scandal back into the headlines. Yes, Im afraid well be going through this again. In fact, as you know, the "leaks" about what these reports have found are already causing news stories which may not be accurate.
Maybe it will be of assistance if I offer some context to help understand the findings. Keep these facts in mind as everybody else is jumping to conclusions and rushing to judgment.
For one, we bishops commissioned the report. This is not some investigative reporter sniffing out bad news about a defiant church unwilling to cooperate. We bishops pledged to you we would be as honest and forthcoming as possible about this tragedy. We can only begin to restore trust and move ahead if we fully comprehend the scope and horror of this nightmare. Wed prefer that you hear it from us rather than from someone else. It hurts us all, but will ultimately help us all as we move to reform, renewal and reconciliation. Light heals, darkness hurts. We cannot hold our heads up and begin to walk forward until we have held our heads down in shame.
We are already being blasted by some well-intentioned Catholics for not "putting all this behind us and moving on." Well, we do want to "put it behind us and move on," but we cannot do that until we honestly confront the scope of the horrors, learn from them and vow never to let it get this way again.
"Why do you bishops keep talking about this. Just forget about it," is another comment we hear. We cannot; we must not. One of the lessons we painfully learned is that silence, secrecy and denial only complicated a terrible situation.
Two, the reports cover all priests and deacons for fifty-two years. I do not know what the statistics will be we will not receive the reports until next week but I can visualize the headlines now; "Thousands of priests guilty of abusing minors." Keep in mind were talking about a group of hundreds of thousands of bishops, priests and deacons over a half-century.
Three, the "news" will actually be "old" for us here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We decided over a year ago that we needed to be up-front with you about the number of allegations, and the cost to the archdiocese. We took some heat when we released those statistics last February, last September and just this week, in reports to all 220,000 registered Catholic households in southeastern Wisconsin, but Im sure glad we did it.
Four, the reports will give us the statistics of every bishop, priest or deacon ever accused, whether the accusation was substantiated or not. From painful experience I can tell you that, tragically, almost all allegations from brave victim-survivors are indeed true, but there have been some that have never been proven and some that have been fraudulent and they are included in the statistics.
Five, if there is any kind of some positive news in all this gloom, it could be that the huge majority of reported abuse came prior to the last fifteen years or so. In this archdiocese, for instance, we have only two substantiated allegations of abuse that took place after 1990. Thats two too many, but it indicates that the abuse is going down, that the prevention and vigilance which began to characterize the Churchs response in the late 1980s has been effective and is beginning to eradicate this plague in the Church.
Now, even given this context, what we will learn next Friday will be shocking, sad, sobering and scandalous. There is no way around it. The abuse of our young people by those who dare claim a position of trust and honor is a horrible crime, a perverse sin, a terrible wound on the body of Christ. That leaders in the Church failed to act with justice and rigor in rooting it out is shameful and a betrayal. We have admitted our wrong and asked for forgiveness.
What we bishops hope will happen is this: tragically, in the past, we have been an example of what not to do in dealing with this tragedy. Now we hope we can begin to be an example of what to do. No other institution in the United States is acting with more resolve and vigor to confront the horror of sexual abuse of minors than the Catholic Church.
Our strict policies to remove guilty clergy, our increased vigilance in the screening of candidates and more demanding formation in seminaries, our background checks of all involved in ministry to young people, the introduction of the VIRTUS program of training and prevention, now mandatory for all our priests, deacons, pastoral workers, teachers and volunteers, the prevention program for children and parents and our efforts awkward at times to reach out to victims, can hopefully be an example of what should be done, instead of what should not.
It may have taken us an inexcusable amount of time to get here, but we are now on the road to becoming a leading partner in how society must respond to a tumor that affects all society families, schools, professions, organizations, athletics all of society, not just the Church. As Bishop Wilton Gregory has observed, "This may not be the beginning of the end, but at least its the end of the beginning." If our shame, embarrassment, suffering and scorn can bring about a reform of society to help eradicate this horror, so be it.
This is not the time to pat ourselves on the back, but rather to strike our breast in a "mea culpa." Its part of the "dying and rising" that only has meaning when united with the dying and rising of Jesus. Maybe its providential these reports will come out as Lent begins.
The Wanderer ^ | January 22, 2004 | Paul Likoudis
Diocese Of Lincoln Refuses To Participate In National Survey
By PAUL LIKOUDIS
When the U.S. Bishops National Review Board hosts a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., February 27 to reveal the results of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study detailing 50 years of clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church, at least one American diocese will not be part of its statistics the Diocese of Lincoln.
The ordinary of the diocese, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, on the advice of his priests and legal advisers, decided not to answer a lengthy questionnaire sent out by the college.
Press reports that the Diocese of Lincoln is the only diocese in the United States not filling out the survey are not accurate, Bishop Bruskewitz explained in a "clarification" on the issue, printed in the diocesan newspaper January 15.
Though left unnamed, there are other Latin rite dioceses and Eastern rite eparchies which also refused to complete the questionnaire, according to the bishop.
Bishop Bruskewitz also listed ten reasons "not complete or exhaustive, but sufficient for now" why he chose not to answer the inquiry. He explained:
"1) This study is not directed to developing programs for the protection of young people. . . . The study seems to be to satisfy curiosity.
"2) Serious sins against the Eighth Commandment are likely to be part of the result of the study: detraction, calumny, slander, contumely, etc.
"3) The study asks to include information even for inconclusive allegations and anonymous allegations.
"4) Many of the accused in the files of many dioceses are dead and will not be able to defend themselves.
"5) No equivalent study has ever been made in the United States so that there is no comparison to any other sector of people in the United States, such as Protestant ministers, public school teachers, doctors, youth ministers, artists, newspaper reporters, etc.
"6) The United States federal government Office of Health and Human Services refused to grant a certificate of confidentiality for the study as requested by the National Review Board.
"7) The reporting of the study does not promise to place into context the overwhelming number of priests who do not and did not ever commit any sexual abuse of minors.
"8) The study is skewed and inaccurate from the start because any self-reporting can include both inflation and deflation of information.
"9) About one-third of all the Catholic clergy in the United States are not included in the study, since religious orders and other communities (for instance, Jesuits, Dominicans, Benedictines, Franciscans, etc.) are not included.
"10) The administration of the USCCB [United States Conference of Catholic Bishops] which signed the contract with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice has given the ownership of all the information into the possession of the college."
Thus, concludes Bishop Bruskewitz, "The study, like The Charter, while having some positive aspects, can be fairly judged as defective and flawed and not useful for the Diocese of Lincoln."
In the same clarification, Bishop Bruskewitz also raised objections to media reports that his diocese was not in compliance with "The Charter" because he had not instituted, among other things, a "safe environment program," written a "transparency" policy in dealing with allegations of sex abuse, created and published a policy for sex abuse victims to report alleged abuse and a policy for handling complaints of such abuse.
In response to these allegations, Bishop Bruskewitz informed his people that the dioceses policy is that any person alleging abuse by diocesan personnel is to report the crime to the civil authorities, and the diocese, and that policies exist to deal with such cases.
He also reminded his people that "The Charter" "does not have the force of Church law, since the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cannot enact Church laws without the approval of the Holy See. Approval was not sought for The Charter. Therefore, it is incorrect and inaccurate to claim that anything in The Charter is binding, obligatory, mandated, required, etc."
The Wanderer interviewed Bishop Bruskewitz by telephone on January 14, and asked him to elaborate on his objections to "The Charter."
"My principal objection," he said, "is that it is a flawed document. It has some positive elements for sure, but it also has some elements that, in my view, are objectionable.
"The Essential Norms, which derived from The Charter, were enacted by the Holy See as particular for the law for the United States, but only after they had undergone amendment, and change through discussion with various offices of the Holy See. The Essential Norms, just as all Church and civil laws, are being carefully observed by the bishop and the Diocese of Lincoln.
" The Charter, however," he added, "has not been enacted into law by the Holy See. So it does not have legal binding force. If the Holy See wants The Charter to be particular law for the United States, it would be very simple for the Holy See to enact it as such, and then it would be scrupulously obeyed by the Diocese and bishop of Lincoln."
Does the bishop have any problems with "The Charters" mandate for "safe environment" programs in Catholic parishes and schools? The Wanderer asked.
"We have no problem if the safe environment programs are moral and in accord with Catholic morality, and we have safe environments in our schools and institutions here.
"Our emphasis is that the teachers, other adults and parents especially, are strictly trained to help their children and know how to recognize abuse. We do it through the parents and teachers, rather than aim it at the children."
A Questionable Remedy
Bishop Bruskewitz raised another concern during his interview, and that is the claim by some members of the National Review Board that they have "episcopal authority," a claim he said was made by Illinois Justice Anne Burke in an interview with the Archdiocese of Chicagos newspaper, The Catholic New World.
Asked by reporter Michelle Martin for the June 22, 2003 report about what she sees as her role for the National Review Board, Burke answered:
"The board was created by the bishops to delegate some of their authority in the face of the sex scandal. . . .
"Our commitment is to the lay people of the United States, and thats what I think we came to understand. Thats not what I thought at the beginning. Were in essence a subcommittee of the bishops conference. . . . [ellipses in original]. As it turns out were the only voice of the laity there, and its a powerful position. Everyone has taken it extremely seriously, as we have to do it. Otherwise, the laity wont have a voice."
Bruskewitz commented that one of the problems he sees "with the homosexual/pedophile scandals in the Church, as horrible as they are, is a questionable remedy that would go in a direction that would cause long-term damage. This includes, for instance, the claim of members of the National Review Board to have episcopal authority.
"I think it would be a grave mistake to revert to some of the abuses of the past, such as lay investiture in the Middle Ages, in which case the cure is worse than the disease as bad as the disease is."
He also expressed his concern that some of the recent recommendations made by the National Review Boards audit team, headed by a former FBI official, indicates "that there is a de facto conviction that all bishops and priests are untrustworthy, and therefore must be constantly monitored, checked, controlled, and audited."
And that suspicion, he added, extends down to every lay person involved in some form of service to the Church.
"What am I to say to the retired schoolteacher, who spent a life teaching children, and now volunteers to teach catechism in her parish? That she is supposed to be mug-shot, finger-printed, checked by the FBI on the assumption that she is hiding a criminal past or that she is going to turn into a criminal at some time in the future?"
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IMO, Bishop Bruskewitz is right on the money. This survey is, appropriately enough, being issued during Lent. It is but more sin piled upon the Cross Jesus and we Christians must bear.
Lomg ago, Romulus noted the Bishops thought this was an issue that could be "managed."
It can't be. It is grave sin that must be repudiated and any Bishop who in any way was culpable must "Repent and do Penance." He must resign if he is Christian.
Besides, ninenot et al are trying to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered to the holy people of God".
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