New website tackles tough topic of clerical sex abuse

by Olivia Martin
olivia.martin@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann has never been shy about sharing his thoughts on the current clerical sex abuse crisis, or about the many ways in which the archdiocese works to be both transparent and proactive in the care of the faithful. (See his columns in The Leaven Aug. 31, Oct. 5 and Nov. 23.)

But now he’s coming to parishioners face to face — at least virtually — and to those who visit the new Response in Crisis website (responseincrisis.arch kck.org), launched Nov. 30 by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. 

The site serves as a resource for those with questions or comments about the archdiocese’s response to allegations of sexual abuse, as well providing information on how to report abuse.

The website, said Tim Chik, the director of Savior Pastoral Center and digital media for the archdiocese, was developed to support — on a digital platform — the “archbishop’s ongoing attention to this matter.” 

Bill Graveman, a parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish in Tonganoxie, found the site very valuable. He visited it shortly after it launched, hoping to find answers to some of his questions concerning the abuse crisis.

“I found it both informative and helpful,” said Graveman. “I think it’s critical that the scandal [of abuse] in the church be addressed in this open and transparent way.”

The Response in Crisis site features a series of video addresses from Archbishop Naumann in which he renews his personal commitment to victims of abuse as well as accountability as a bishop.

Visitors to the site have the opportunity to learn about the care and outreach offered to victims, the archdiocesan Independent Review Board, the archdiocese’s safe environment policies, the formation of seminarians and the accountability of bishops. They can also view financial reports there, participate in a survey and report abuse.

“I think this sunlight will help,” said Graveman, “and the opportunity for people to misunderstand and make up their own facts will be lessened by the fact that we are not only transparent in this archdiocese, but also proactive and are giving people an opportunity and a means to comment and discuss.”

Graveman particularly found useful the information about the archdiocesan Independent Review Board and the backgrounds of the people who compose it.

“Everything we can do to stimulate transparency with not only our parishioners and Catholics in the archdiocese but also with non-Catholics and those thinking about joining the church would be very helpful,” he said.

In December, the archdiocesan Facebook page featured the Response in Crisis site in a series of sponsored posts in the hopes of reaching members of the archdiocese who are active on social media.

“It’s our way of being proactive and not being quiet about what has been done, what is being done and what will be done to be transparent,” said Chik.

The posts have reached as many as 25,000 people, said Chik, which is markedly higher than standard archdiocesan posts.

“Not everything [in response to the site] is positive, of course,” said Chik. 

But for Graveman, the release of the Response in Crisis site has filled him with gratitude.

“I am so thankful we have an archbishop who is acting proactively and being assertive,” said Graveman, “who is putting information out there and is being transparent.

“It cuts all of that confusion and misunderstanding out. I think it’s very forward-looking and I’m grateful for his leadership.”

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