It is with deep sorrow that I listened to the gripping stories of three survivors of sexual abuse today. What courage it must have taken for them to come forward and I am grateful to them and those assisting them in doing so.  

I want to clarify my stand on the matters being reported for the sake of all Catholics in the Diocese and for our families, friends and good neighbors — and especially for any victim, survivor or their family member hurt by the Church in any setting in which their trust was once placed in we who represent the Lord on earth.  

History is often unkind to those who expose the corruption that God’s noblest creatures can descend to when they enslave themselves to the vilest temptations of the world, the flesh and the Devil. The sacrilege of one who, as priest and father, incestuously devours the innocence of his own children deserves the contempt and the condemnation of civil society. Most especially, he earns the revulsion of the spiritual family he was ordained to serve and care for, even as he himself needs that same family to forgive and heal him, should he seek to repent and make amends for the evil he has brought into so many lives and the Church he once pledged himself to.  

The suffering of the victims, however, is the deepest and most profound, even as their wounds, now exposed, reveal to many others the ugly truth about predators and deceivers — wounds which they have borne, often in silence, and very long. Victims and survivors of sexual predators who robbed the innocence of their youth deserve the best and most generous time, attention and offerings of which our own broken hearts are capable. They carry the embedded scars of their violated trust every day throughout their lives, especially painful as they relive their trauma to seek justice. Yet, this is how they find a path toward healing, through speaking of what they have suffered in isolation — finally to be heard and believed.  

In many ways, victims remind us of our Lord, crucified for sin he did not and could not commit, who showed his disciples his wounds in the Upper Room at Easter and then, breathing his Spirit on them, offered them peace and the power to forgive. Many survivors of sexual abuse are discovering the need for spiritual healing as crucial for their well-being, even as they seek truth and justice. Here, more and more are discovering the healing power their wounds bear, with the help of God’s grace, to those they love and to fellow survivors. Together, they are finding that they can open up channels of restorative justice for our wounded Church family that no one else better than they can in a world groaning for healing and to be rid of the evil they suffer from.  

We are grateful to them — all survivors and their families — as well as the whistleblowers and journalists who help them make their stories known, and to all who seek to help us find in our deepest selves whatever will lead us together to God’s healing grace. I believe the Lord is inviting us through them to accompany him and one another in our journey toward reconciliation and healing. There is even a hope that survivors emerging from their darkness can rise to become wounded healers, challenging us to be what we are truly called to be and to reject the corruption of personal sin and institutional callousness that has often tolerated such violence. Let us walk with one another committed to the goal of protecting every innocent life in the Church’s care and everywhere in our society and saying, never again.

I assure each and every man and woman who has suffered abuse of any kind that the indignity inflicted upon you can never reduce the dignity in which the Creator has fashioned you. The maltreatment by a person, even an ordained person, is not proof that you are worthless. No matter whether anyone has ever treated you with respect for your true worth, you?are precious to God. No matter how far you may have felt driven from the Church and no matter how far into isolation you may have gone, God is with you and full of love for you. If you wish to explore this truth and how faith may help you recover, we have a pastoral ministry devoted to survivors of abuse and their families. It is confidential. We are here, waiting for you.

I ask Catholics to participate through their parishes in our continued healing, and I also ask that we all measure our words so we may ensure compassion and respect greets all victims and survivors of abuse and all their families, so we may let all children overhear that they will be respected and heard if they turn for help now, and so we may offer encouragement to our priests, religious and lay ministers who silently bear a great burden created by those have committed such grave sins.

I encourage everyone to have confidence in due process and its fundamental guiding principles. Amidst the delays and human limitations of our justice systems, both civil and canonical, our passion to discover the truth without delay must not obscure or overtake our compassion for those over whom a cloak of suspicion may be cast, perhaps unjustly while the process unfolds and until that truth comes to light.   

For those Catholics who are enraged, I join my just outrage with yours. For those Catholics whose hearts are broken, I join mine with yours and entrust us all to the Sacred Heart of our Lord and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We have much work to do. Unified, we will be more successful than if we are divided. My commitment as your Bishop remains unwavering to deal effectively with the resurgence of issues around abuse, as time will show in our work on the Task Force and in other ways.

And, I close by inviting each fellow Catholic not to recoil from the Church at the very moment when we are called to confront evil, but rather to draw even closer to the Lord in the Eucharist. Here, in these dark times, we will truly find for ourselves and for our Church our Way, our Truth and our Life who is Jesus, the Lord, everyone’s Savior.