Church has made great strides but more remains to be done

Life will be victorious

by Archbishop Naumann

I hope many of you will join me for one of the eucharistic adoration and rosary prayer services this Sunday, Oct. 7, at 2 p.m. at Queen of the Holy Rosary Church, 7023 W. 71st St., Overland Park, or at 7 p.m. at Most Pure Heart of Mary Church, 3601 S.W. 17th St., Topeka.

These communal times of prayer are devoted to interceding for the healing of victims of sexual abuse and for the purification and renewal of the church.

Some people have expressed to me that prayer is an inadequate response to the current crisis. I agree that prayer alone is not sufficient, but prayer is essential as we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit in discerning the most effective course of action.

In my previous columns, I have noted that both the McCarrick scandal and the Pennsylvania grand jury report call for actions that will result in better accountability of bishops in three areas: 1) in our own personal conduct; 2) in our response to victims; and 3) in the manner in which we address accusations of clerical misconduct.

I cannot emphasize adequately that the present crisis is not about a current lack of safety in our parishes, schools and other institutions.

The church in general, and the archdiocese in particular, has in place excellent policies and procedures for responding to new allegations of sexual abuse of minors. We have invested significant resources to assist with the thorough investigation of accusations regarding misconduct by clergy or other representatives of the church.

Moreover, we have also invested a tremendous amount of resources in creating a safe environment in all of our institutions. In the past 15 years, we have held 1,365 Virtus adult awareness training sessions for clergy, staff and volunteers — essentially, all those who serve young people in parishes, schools and other agencies.

The archdiocese consists of approximately 60,000 households with about 200,000 individual members. Since 2003, 46,000 adults have participated in our awareness training sessions.

In addition to the awareness sessions, adults working with youth receive monthly continuing education information that requires participants to answer a question or questions to verify they have read and grasped the information.

During this same time period, we have conducted 41,000 criminal background checks on those ministering to or serving children on behalf of the church.

Each year, our safe environment protocols and practices, as well as our procedures and actions in responding to allegations of abuse of children and youth, are audited by an independent national firm to evaluate our compliance to the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

Although not required by the charter, during the on-site audits we welcome random visits and audits of a sampling of parishes to verify that compliance is happening at the grassroots level.

All of this requires a significant investment of material and human resources that are well worth it, because they help ensure the safety of our children.

I am not aware of any other institution or organization that has done as much as the Catholic Church the past 15 years to create a safe environment for young people. The Pennsylvania grand jury report, the John Jay Study and the annual charter audits all confirm that these measures are effective.

One of our ongoing priorities must be to remain hypervigilant with the continued observance of our safe environment protocols.

We must never grow complacent but, rather, must persevere in fostering a continually improving culture of safety, where best practices are followed and concerns are reported quickly to the appropriate civil and church authorities.

Another important priority is to examine how we can improve our assistance to victims, no matter how long ago the misconduct occurred.

Finally, I am committed to working with my brother bishops to implement the proposals put forward by Cardinal DiNardo and supported by the Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — both to investigate thoroughly the McCarrick scandal and to create structures and policies that will make bishops more accountable to those we are privileged to serve.

It is understandable that many are frustrated and angry within the church that we are still contending with scandals of clerical misconduct. Frankly, I share your frustration and anger.

However, we must not allow our frustrations to blind us to all that has been accomplished. The Catholic Church in the United States is much healthier today than it was 15 years ago and exponentially better than we were 30 years ago.

Thanks to the hard work of so many within the church, our parishes, schools and institutions today are the safest places on the planet for children and youth.

At the same time, the troubling events of this past summer challenge us to continue the ongoing purification of the church in two important areas: 1) greater accountability of bishops; and 2) a deepened commitment and expanded effort regarding the care and healing for past victims.

Our response must be grounded in prayer, but not end with pleas for God’s mercy and intercessions for divine assistance. Our prayer must open us to the power of the Holy Spirit that motivates and drives us to action.

Much has been accomplished, but still more remains to be done.

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