|April 1, 2013 • VOL. 51, NO. 7 • Oakland, CA|
Diocese committed to assuring safety
The revelation of sexual abuse by some clergy has shaken the Catholic Church especially because of the love that Jesus Christ had for children. "Let the children come onto me!" As followers of Christ we are obligated to assure respect and dignity for every human person. How vitally important is the care we take of every single child and young person as well as everyone with whom we relate. How grateful we are that there are thousands of concerned adults in parishes, Catholic schools, Religious Education Programs, CYO and beyond who are dedicated to the mission of protecting children, youth and vulnerable adults. We are aware that there is, has been and will be evil in our midst. It is very difficult to understand that some of our Catholic clergy are abusers. Because we are followers of Christ, we are obligated to eradicate evil and assure the safety of all of God's people.
In 1993 Bishop Cummins expanded the guidelines, emphasizing the primacy of pastoral care to victims. In 2000, Bishop Cummins conducted one of the earliest apology services for all survivors of sexual abuse in the diocese. Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron continued these services through the mid 2000's. Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and now Archbishop Alex J. Brunett continue this supportive pastoral care.
We are deeply saddened that children and young people were abused by a minority of priests in the diocese. At the time these cases came to the attention of diocesan officials, particularly Bishop Cummins and Sister Barbara, every effort was made to reach out to the vulnerable victims. This outreach continues today. Unfortunately, in recent years it has become evident that all victims did not immediately come forward.
In the early years of revelations of clergy abuse it was the professional understanding of diocesan personnel that perpetrators, once removed from ministry, could get the psychological help necessary to stop the abusive behavior. Current knowledge underscores that this is not the case. The 2002 USCCB charter, as well as the 2005 and 2011 revisions, affirmed this clearly. No perpetrator has been allowed to return to ministry in the Diocese of Oakland since the charter was passed. In fact, since the imposition of the charter, priests who have been accused of molestations are regularly monitored by a professional investigator hired by the diocese to ensure that no children or youth are at risk.
The diocese has a well established program for Safe Environment for children, youth and vulnerable adults that includes the "Shield the Vulnerable" website (www.shieldthevulnerable.org). This has a 90-minute interactive course that teaches priests; diocesan, parish and school staffs; religious education and CYO personnel; and volunteers how to recognize, report and prevent child abuse. More than 41,000 have been trained in the last three years. It also includes age appropriate courses for all students in our Catholic schools and Religious Education Programs. In addition, the program requires that all employees and volunteers who come in contact with children and youth are fingerprinted and In addition, all volunteers undergo an annual Megan's Law Check for past criminal abuse records.
No More Secrets, a diocesan support group for survivors of clergy abuse, has been meeting regularly since 2005. Facilitated by a licensed clinical psychologist, it provides an opportunity for survivors to draw strength, courage and as much healing as possible. It is a well-received diocesan program committed to helping victims. It currently meets every other month in the faculty room of St. Elizabeth's Elementary School on 33rd Avenue in Oakland. This is promulgated in "The Catholic Voice" in every edition. Questions regarding this should be addressed to Sister Glenn Anne McPhee, OP, at 510-267-8334 or at the Diocese of Oakland, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland 94612.
The Diocese of Oakland is firmly committed to eradicating clergy abuse. As faithful Catholics, we are aware that there is, and will always be, evil in our midst. The diocese is committed to support and walk with the victims of clerical sex abuse while making every effort to eradicate this horrendous reality!
(Sister Glenn Anne McPhee, OP, is Chancellor and Victim Assistance Coordinator for the diocese. Reach her at 510-267-8334.)
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