Priest: The Church must emphasize pastoral work with victims of sexual abuse

WASHINGTON, DC — Each year, the American Catholic Church releases its annual report on what it is doing to prevent the abuse of minors by clergy and other church workers.

What he should also tell church members is what is being done, especially by bishops, to help those suffering after abuse, said a priest who works with survivors and perpetrators.


“We hear how much we pay the victims, all these training programs” to prevent abuse, says Jesuit Father Jerry McGlone, himself a survivor of abuse by a priest, “but where is the initial and ongoing support for survivors? ? For me, this is a real missing piece.

In the two decades since the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth,” “there have been some very good advances that the charter has enacted: a sense of putting in place a system that didn’t exist, putting in place putting in place policies that had to be followed… having victim assistance coordinators, having safe environment training,” McGlone said in a June 9 interview with Catholic News Service.

The USCCB indicates on its website that the most important information from the annual report includes:

— “Conclusions regarding diocesan/eparchial compliance with the charter and auditor’s recommendations on how the implementation of the charter can be improved.”

— “A progress report from the Child and Youth Welfare Secretariat on its activities”.

– “And data regarding allegations, safe environment programs, background checks, financial costs related to allegations, and child protection efforts in dioceses/eparchies.”

“But you know, with that, we lack the data to know how effective it was,” said McGlone, a psychologist and researcher at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University in Washington.

The audits the church now presents on what it is doing administratively, in terms of training, handling reports of abuse and tracking best practices, should also include, he said, what what church leaders are doing pastorally – and long-term – to be there for abuse survivors and their families and with parish communities where abuse has taken place – and what they are doing to s apologize to everyone.

McGlone, who said he “walks” with survivors as well as perpetrators, told CNS he has sometimes asked offenders “when are you ready to just apologize to your surviving victim?”

Likewise, the Church, as a faulty institution, should “take responsibility and be transparent” for the abuses under its watch, he said, and for the failures that continued even after the bishops were “forced” to adopt the charter as a result of press articles.

Although the charter was intended to prevent allegations of clergy abuse of minors from slipping through the cracks, it did not fully address how bishops could be held accountable for mishandling reports, including any involvement in their cover-up, nor did the charter address allegations against bishops who committed the same or similar crimes.

This flaw became evident after a cascade of allegations of sexual abuse, of minors and young men, surfaced against former Washington Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick starting in 2018.

McCarrick is now secularized and faces three counts of sexually assaulting a teenager in Massachusetts in the 1970s. Many questions have since arisen and remain unanswered as to who knew about the allegations and did not did nothing about them.

In 2019, Pope Francis, who has always acted to reduce abuse, published his “motu proprio” titled “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”), which revised and clarified standards and procedures detention of bishops and religious superiors responsible for protecting aggressors worldwide.

In addition, a reporting system for accepting allegations of sexual misconduct against bishops and eparchies in the United States was implemented in 2020. The Catholic Bishops’ Abuse Reporting System includes a website and a telephone number. free phone through which individuals can file reports regarding a bishop.

Years before McCarrick’s larger-than-life profile exposed prelate abuse, Bishop Anthony J. O’Connell of Palm Beach, Florida resigned in 2002 over allegations of the type of abuse. suffered by Father McGlone as a teenager: The Florida prelate, who died in 2012, was accused of having, in the past, as a priest, groped former seminarians.

McGlone speaks of a Catholic writer who suggested that as a sign of penance for the “sins of pastors” all bishops in the United States should refuse to wear their miter “and lay it before the altars and kneel before every event public in mourning.

“In this 20th commemoration of the charter, wouldn’t it be nice if each bishop took off his mitre, yours during the whole service before the altar, in ashes, in lamentation?” McGlone said.

“Where is a lamenting church acknowledging sin, being resolved not to do it again?” He asked. “And where is your sign of penance?” What did you do as a sign of penance? Where is the sense of moral indignation at the sins of the past?

In June 2017, the U.S. bishops at the Spring General Assembly gathered at the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis for a Mass of prayer and penance. It took place after Pope Francis called on all episcopal conferences around the world to participate in a day of prayer and penance for victims of sexual abuse within the Church.

In 2019, a small group of U.S. bishops also met with members of the Spirit Fire survivor group on the campus of the Catholic University of America in Washington, but overall most gatherings between bishops and survivors took place. took place face-to-face. -one and in private and it is unclear how many prelates participated in this practice.

These meetings and acts of penance and contrition should also include families and parish communities and the wider church, McGlone argues, because the pain is widespread.

In November 2021, at the USSCB Annual Fall Meeting in Baltimore, Cardinals Seán P. O’Malley of Boston and Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, along with six other prelates and religious leaders from various denominations prayed and took a “sunrise walk” with survivors of abuse.

McGlone and family members of abuse victims were among them.

The priest praised the efforts of those present at the service as well as prelates such as Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, who regularly meets with survivors and urged his fellow bishops to do the same, and the Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda of St. Paul and Minneapolis, under whose leadership the archdiocese in 2018 negotiated a $210 million settlement agreement with 450 victims of clergy sex abuse as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

The Archbishop of Minnesota continually offers contrition, McGlone noted.

This is what survivors want to see more of, not leaders bent on “saving reputation and saving face”, he said. It makes the situation worse to see bishops more concerned about church finances than those who have been hurt, McGlone said.

“If we are to be a bankrupt church, so be it. How much money restores the innocence of a child who has been raped? ” He asked. “How much money?”

Maria D. Ervin