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 October 20, 2008   •   VOL. 46, NO. 18   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Healing garden — a continuing
commitment to survivors

Below is the text of Bishop Allen Vigneron’s address at the Oct. 11 dedication of the healing garden for survivors of clergy sex abuse. The garden is located on the plaza adjacent to the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

To begin, I want to thank all of you who have come here today for this important event in the life of the Diocese of Oakland: the dedication of the Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse Healing Garden, here on the plaza adjacent to the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

I also want to express, on my own behalf and on behalf of the whole diocese, my profound gratitude to the members of the Survivors Garden committee for conceiving of the idea of this garden and then doing the hard work of making your idea a reality. What you have proposed and what you have accomplished is a real gift to our Catholic family in the East Bay. Thank you.

The dedication of this garden today advances and enriches all the events that make up the dedication of the center of the new Cathedral of Christ the Light. What we are doing this afternoon is not extraneous to the establishment of the cathedral, but is a completion of it.

To help us grasp this point we need to understand that today’s gathering is a continuation of what began at the “Reconciliation and Healing Service between the Victims of Clergy Abuse and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland,” held at Leona Lodge on March 25, 2000.

A key moment in that service was the confession by Church leaders that we had not brought out into the light, but kept in the shadows, the evil of clergy sexual abuse of children and young people.

Today, it is right for us to recall that then we leaders admitted, that “we were ashamed and afraid to know the horrible truth about the abuse happening within our Church and its devastating impact on the lives of so many of those we were called to serve. Even when the signs were right there before us, we did not recognize them. We had eyes, but we did not see.”

To the hurt of so many innocents, we preferred the darkness to the light. And for that, I make again our heartfelt apologies to victim survivors.

The dedication of this new Cathedral of Christ the Light has been the occasion for the Catholics of the East Bay to rededicate ourselves to letting the light of Christ and his truth shine out in every corner of our community and in every aspect of our lives.

Since we, especially we leaders, as we said eight years ago, failed in our time to shine the light of Christ on the sin of clergy sexual abuse of children and young people, it is right that we should alongside this new cathedral dedicate this Healing Garden.

The garden is, in this sense, a particular ray of the Christ-light, permanently focused on an evil that must never again be left to fester in the cover of darkness, but must always be exposed to the light, so that it can be exorcised whenever it is found and, with great vigilance, prevented from even happening.

We are resolved to keep learning to walk in the light no matter the cost; to witness to the light of Christ, that shines out in the darkness, and to find our courage from the truth that no darkness can ever overcome this light (cf. Jn 1: 5, 7).

Since the healing service at Leona Lodge, we have worked hard to fulfill the solemn pledges made that day. We are giving our best efforts to ensure that children and young people are safe while they participate in the life of the Church.

We remain committed to supporting and walking with victim survivors of clergy sexual abuse as they journey along the path toward healing. The dedication of this Healing Garden is the latest reaffirmation of those pledges made eight years ago.

This garden, like all such memorials, brings back painful memories, memories that, yes, we might be tempted to suppress. But the physical, tangible presence of the garden — and in particular the presence of the stone sculpture at its center — will not let us forget. As it says on the plaques at the entries, “We remember, and we affirm never again.”


Previous "In His Light" Columns by Bishop Allen H. Vigneron

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