Early last year, I wrote to the Diocese about our efforts to foster healing in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse crisis and to provide greater transparency in our response to it. I shared that an in-depth review of the personnel files of all our priests by an outside consultant would soon be underway. It was, as I explained, a necessary preparatory step toward the eventual compilation of a list of credibly accused clergy from our Diocese. I remain committed to the publication of such a list. Our resolve to greater transparency around this painful issue demands it.
The review of priest files became an arduous, painstaking process, as the files go back 50 years and are not digitized. The process has taken much longer than anticipated.
As we have announced, the Diocese has had to suspend some priests in response to information gathered from this file review pending further investigation. These suspensions were difficult but necessary. It was required by both our own diocesan policies and the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The suspended priests deny the allegations made against them. The investigations of these cases are now ongoing. They will take time, but you have my assurance that they will be resolved as fairly and as quickly as possible.
It is tragic that our Church has been so deeply wounded by the scourge of clergy sexual abuse. It has touched every diocese in the nation and continues to affect all of us –clergy and laity – in significant ways.
While the review of our files and the ongoing work resulting from it have taken longer than I first expected, I am convinced that it is crucial that we take the time needed and use due diligence to do it all right. In the end, I want to publish a list of credibly-accused priests that is accurate and complete.
It is my deepest hope that the publication of such a list will help in the healing and care of survivors of clergy sexual abuse. They are of paramount concern to me and remain always in my prayers. I want to assure them of the availability of whatever support the Diocese might be able to offer. We recently hired a social worker to serve as our Victims Assistance Coordinator. She is a wonderful, caring person, and she is providing ongoing outreach to survivors of clergy abuse.
I also want to note that our Diocese has over the past year established a revamped Safe Environment program to strengthen its child protection programs and protocols for handling allegations and responding to anyone impacted by abuse. You may find information on the program on our diocesan website at www.fallriverdiocese.org under the Safe Environment tab along the top menu bar.
It is our mission, our sacred mission, to remain vigilant in our efforts to protect children and vulnerable adults in our care in our parishes, schools, programs, and ministries.
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha