An apology to victims for the Church's mishandling of clergy sexual abuse and a defense of Pope Benedict XVI for "swiftly responding" to the crisis were at the heart of comments offered by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee at the end of the Chrism Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist yesterday.
An excerpt from the archbishop's homily:
Archbishop Listecki went on to thank "brave victim-survivors" for coming forward to tell their stories and prodding the Church to change. "...Because of their persistence and perseverance, we know the Church HAS changed," he said.
"As a bishop, a priest, and as a man of faith, I apologize to anyone who has been a victim of clergy sexual abuse. This crime, this sin, this horror, should never occur, especially by a priest. Those who committed these crimes and those, including some bishops, who didn’t do everything in their power to stop it, go against everything the Church and the priesthood represent. For those actions, I offer my sincere apology.
"So many people have suffered – first and foremost victims and their families. Because of the actions of the few priests who committed these crimes, all of us continue to suffer today.
"This past week our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI has come under criticism for the way he has handled past cases of clergy sexual abuse of minors, including a case here involving Lawrence Murphy. The allegations against him, as well as the facts supporting him, are widely available.
"The Holy Father does not need me to defend him or his decisions. I believe, and history will confirm that his actions in responding to this crisis, swiftly and decisively and his compassionate response to victims/surviovrs, speak for themselves. The Holy Father has been firm in his commitment to combat clergy sexual abuse; root it out of the Church; reach out to those who have been harmed; and hold perpetrators accountable. He has been a leader, meeting with victims/survivors and chastising bishops for their lack of judgment and leadership.
Mistakes were made in the Lawrence Murphy case. The mistakes were not made in Rome in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The mistakes were made here, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, by the Church, by civil authorities, by Church officials, and by bishops. And for that, I beg your forgiveness in the name of the Church and in the name of this Archdiocese of Milwaukee."
"We know that today the policies and procedures in place in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and across the United States, ensures to the best of our God-given ability, that no priest with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can ever serve as a priest again in our Church.
"Still, we know it is not words, but actions that will demonstrate our resolve. And, in some ways, regardless of what I say, tonight or any other time, our critics will say it is not enough. But that cannot and will not prevent me from making every possible effort at moving forward toward healing and resolution with those who have been harmed, and, determined, to make sure nothing like this can ever happen again.
"To you gathered here tonight – our pastors, priests, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers – through your vigilance at our parishes and schools, we now have in place the mechanisms to effectively combat the scourge of child sexual abuse. Through the formation and training of our safe environment initiative, we know that you, in your parishes, schools and institutions, have put in place the necessary safeguards and practices to ensure our children are protected. Thank you. Remain vigilant."
Read the full homily HERE.