August 15, 2018
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Dear Member of the Family of the Archdiocese,
Yesterday’s report of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury that investigated cases of the sexual abuse of minors committed by priests and deacons once again brought forward the pain and suffering of those who experienced that abuse, and the shameful way that those in positions of authority, including bishops, responded – or failed to respond – when informed of the abuse, and in many cases permitted it to continue and new victims to be harmed. I am sure that everyone, particularly victim-survivors and their families, but also the laity, good and faithful priests and deacons, and, yes, even bishops and cardinals, is feeling nauseous, hurt, and betrayed by the details contained in the report.
Although the report focused on six dioceses in Pennsylvania, we have thus far found three clerics from this archdiocese mentioned in the report. In case you have not seen the report itself, I wanted to share with you what the report contains, and let you know the status of each of these cases.
While I have not had time to read the entire report, it clearly lays out the pain experienced by victim-survivors, pain which continues to this day, and the terribly wrong way that these incidents were usually handled by the Church in the past which contributed to their suffering. While it is true that the abuse of minors was badly handled by all segments of society, if there is one segment that should have done a better job, it is the Church. And while the Church in the past may have been an example of what not to do, today I believe it is a model of what to do to prevent sexual abuse, and how to respond when an accusation comes to light.
Although the situation in the Church is very different today, especially since the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, that does not mean that we can become complacent or think this is all behind us. We must continue to do all that we can to address the pain and suffering that victim-survivors continue to feel. That is the reason that the archdiocese instituted the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP), as way to help bring a sense of healing for those who were harmed. We must also continue to be ever rigorous in performing background checks and safe environment training, so that, as much as possible, we can prevent abuse from happening again in the future.
I believe that the recent case involving Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, as gut-wrenching as it was, exemplifies the progress that has been made in dealing with such cases. When the Archdiocese of New York received the complaint, we followed our normal protocol as we would for any priest, and everyone involved – from the Vatican on down – agreed that we must deal with the case openly and honestly. It is hard to imagine that such would have been the case 30 years ago.
Let me close by not only offering an apology to those who were harmed by such abuse and the response they may have received when coming forward, but also my gratitude that they did come forward, especially those who testified before the grand jury, participated in our IRCP process, or otherwise made their voices heard. And I would invite other victim-survivors in this archdiocese to come forward, to notify law enforcement, and contact our victim assistance coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org). I assure them that they will be met with respect, compassion, and understanding.
Our God can make good out of evil. He proved that most dramatically on that first Good Friday. It surely feels as if we are experiencing another Good Friday today. Fortunately, we know that the darkness of Good Friday did not have the last word, and that the light of Easter Sunday was not far behind.
Faithfully in Christ,
Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York