This morning, Pope Francis met with victims of sexual abuse by clergy at Santa Marta in Vatican City. During a Mass, the pope thanked the three men and three women -- two each from Ireland, the United Kingdom and Germany -- for coming to the Vatican to meet with him.
The pope praised their courage for speaking out about their abuse, saying that telling the truth "was a service of love, since for us it shed light on a terrible darkness in the life of the church." He said the scandal of abuse caused him "deep pain and suffering. So much time hidden, camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained."
The Holy Father asked God "for the grace to weep, the grace for the church to weep and make reparations for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons" and left life-long scars.
Bishop Michael Burbidge offers the following statement in support of the Holy Father’s powerful words:
During an early morning Mass at Santa Marta on July 7, 2014, Pope Francis quite accurately described the sentiment of Catholic Bishops from around the world as a result of a sexual abuse crisis that hurt so many people. As the Holy Father noted, mistakes were made at various levels and the Church humbly asks for forgiveness.
Although current efforts do not repair the damage caused previously, the Church continues to serve as a place for spiritual and emotional healing. It is my prayer that those who were victimized by clergy, or anyone directly associated with the Catholic Church, would find God’s peace and know that we are deeply sorry for what occurred. Abuse of any kind has no place in society, especially within the Catholic Church—and religious leaders as well as all people of good will must work daily and tirelessly to ensure that God’s children are protected.
Like my brother Bishops, I am always willing to meet with victims of abuse, if that would be of help in the healing process.
Part of the crisis was the failure to report claims of abuse to the legal authorities. In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops came together under the recognition that more needed to be done to increase accountability and transparency with regard to accusations of abuse. What came out of that meeting was the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." This set of guidelines strengthened the way dioceses in the United States respond to claims of sexual abuse. In the Diocese of Raleigh, for instance, the requirement of a criminal background check for all clergy and staff was extended also to volunteers who have regular contact with children. Regular training is provided to staff and volunteers to help them identify inappropriate behavior and know the proper protocols if they believe abuse or misconduct to have occurred. We immediately send all accusations of sexual abuse, past or present, to the NC Conference of District Attorneys.
The reporting procedures and requirements of our Safe Environment Program are extensive, and those who wish to learn more about how we work to protect children and vulnerable adults from any sort of abuse should go to this link:http://www.dioceseofraleigh.org/what/youth/index.aspx.
Those who want to report a claim of abuse, should contact the law enforcement authorities. If anyone is seeking assistance toward healing from abuse by someone representing the Church, please call 1-866-535-7233.