August 22, 2018
Sadness, shock, shame, outrage. I am at a loss for the words to describe my feelings at the scandals which have affected the Church these past few weeks. I have read only some of the report from Pennsylvania but it fills me with revulsion. The harm done to victims is unspeakable.
One can rightly ask: Wasn’t this handled in 2002 when the US bishops committed ourselves to a plan of action (the Charter) to address sexual misconduct with minors by priests and deacons? The Charter did address this issue and since 2002 the Church in the US has implemented procedures and policies to protect minors when involved in Church ministries.
The background checks, child protection training, annual retraining for all employees and for all volunteers ministering to minors, cooperation with civil authorities, all called for by the Charter, are implemented in the Archdiocese of Mobile. In our archdiocese, accusations of misconduct go before an independent review board, composed mostly of lay persons, for consideration. I have been faithful to the zero tolerance called for in the 2002 Charter. Priests and deacons who have credible accusations of abuse of minors are not reassigned elsewhere and are not allowed to exercise any ministry.
These efforts have had a positive effect. Below is a graph of accusations in the U.S. since 2004 of misconduct with minors by priests, not by the date of reporting the accusations, but by date that the alleged incident occurred. According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the number of occurrences peaked in the 1970s. It is noticeable that since the Charter the accusations have been few. According to CARA, in the United States there were seven credible accusations against priests which occurred in 2016, and four in 2017, as opposed to many during the peak years.