19 August 2018 edition of The Morning Call
People are angry. The abuse of children by some members of the clergy, and the past failures to address this deviant behavior appropriately, are outlined in terrible and heart-wrenching detail in the statewide Grand Jury Report.
People are feeling betrayed and heartbroken, and have told me so, in conversations, calls, emails and on social media. I don’t blame them. They have a right to expect that the Church, of all places, should have done better.
I share the anger. I am horrified and ashamed. The perverse manner in which the Priesthood was used to gain access to youth and to steal their innocence, by the very men who were called to preserve it, is crushing.
Although the Grand Jury acknowledged the progress the Church has made in the past 15 years in eliminating abuse and protecting children, clergy sexual abuse still casts a long and chilling shadow over our Diocese and our Church.
Since becoming the Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown on August 31, 2017, I have come to understand that every Bishop inherits the history of his Diocese. It falls to me at this point in history to shoulder any failings from the past, to apologize and ask forgiveness, and to do what I can to prevent recurrence.
I apologize for the times when offenders were not dealt with in the ways we do now. I also apologize to the victims and survivors for the burden they have carried for years, mostly in silence and hidden pain. I make this apology personally, and also on behalf of the Diocese of Allentown.
Please know this: I have never treated a victim with anything but full respect. I have never transferred a predator rather than holding him accountable. I also have never been involved in doing so, nor am I responsible for anyone else doing so.
I ask the forgiveness of the vast majority of priests who had no involvement in this abhorrent behavior. Our devoted Clergy and Religious have remained steadfast in their faith in the midst of human corruption and error. They have been heroic, even when shepherds-turned-wolves infested some parishes and schools.
And so my message to everyone affected by this horrendous part of our past is this: Please offer us another opportunity to regain your trust. Please be open to understanding that while our Church at one time was a model of what not to do, today we are an example of how to deal effectively with this terrible societal problem.
In the Diocese of Allentown, victims and survivors are heard and cared for, perpetrators are held accountable, and children are protected.
You have my personal assurance that victims and survivors will continue to receive counseling at no cost to them, that thorough background checks and strict requirements and training on preventing abuse will continue, and that we will continue our enhanced screening for new candidates for the Priesthood. I assure you that any new allegations will continue to result in immediate reporting to law enforcement and immediate removal from active ministry. Our first goal is to keep our children safe.
As Bishop, I pledge my entire being to shepherding our local Church through these hurt-filled times. I also pledge that I will continue to do absolutely everything I can to protect the flock of Christ entrusted to my care, to the best of my ability.
Together with God’s help, we can begin to heal and move forward, working together to ensure that the sinful actions of the past have no place in the present, and that they will not define us in the future. To those who will hear these words as hollow, or as too little, too late, I ask your forgiveness nonetheless. I can only assure you that they come from the depth of a pastor’s heart.
May God, who alone can heal the deep wounds that each person uniquely feels, bring us to a renewed commitment to the protection of our precious youth.