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By Archbishop Aquila, Denver Catholic, September 6, 2018
During these tumultuous days for the Church, I have been praying that the Spirit of Truth descends upon every disciple in the Church, including the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, those in consecrated life and the laity.
I have said to the Lord, “I don’t care how messy it gets, as long as the truth prevails. Purify the heart and conscience, O Lord, of every disciple with your Spirit of Truth, so they will seek to follow only your will, Father… That every disciple may come to know you, love you and serve you alone!”
The revelations about Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual sins and infidelity, and those who enabled him, have been extremely disheartening. The Church must not give in to the temptation of hiding, which was the reaction Adam and Eve had when they sinned. Only when one brings one’s sin into the light, does one experience the unconditional mercy and love of Jesus. Hiding communicates to God, ‘I really do not trust your love and mercy for me, you cannot heal me, or set me free from the slavery of my sin,’ or, ‘I do not want to let go of my sin.’
Jesus teaches us, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). He teaches us that we can know the truth, and in knowing the truth we will be set free from everything that is not of him. In our encounter with Jesus, we come to know his love, mercy and truth for he himself is the “way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6).
For the sake of the truth being known, I recently joined Cardinal DiNardo and the Executive Committee of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference in calling for the Holy See to conduct a thorough investigation into the Archbishop McCarrick situation, including the involvement of a lay committee with the authority from Rome to carry out an independent investigation.
These horrible actions should never have happened, whether we are talking about the unthinkable crime of abusing minors, or the abuse of power by cardinals, bishops or priests over a long period of time.
When it comes to protecting children, I want to assure the people of northern Colorado that the archdiocese has been and continues to be rigorous in its efforts to protect minors and help those who have been harmed in the past.
In 1991, more than 10 years before the USCCB adopted the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to respond to the clergy sexual abuse crisis within the Church, Archbishop Stafford instituted a mandatory reporting policy. He met with law enforcement and pledged his cooperation in any instance where there is a crime in the Church. As a result, for the last 27 years the archdiocese has had a positive relationship with law enforcement and social services and has consistently reported allegations of childhood sexual abuse it receives to the proper authorities. Archbishop Stafford also created a conduct response team, which was years ahead of when the practice became standard after the Charter. This conduct response team has always been comprised of dedicated professionals (including lay members) who advise me and are available for victims to meet, get them support they need, and help with the healing process.
Beyond these fundamental steps—which are still in place today—the archdiocese has also focused on how to help victims heal as its primary mission in addressing this issue. For example, beginning in 2005, a number of victims came forward publicly alleging abuse in the 1950s-early 1980s by five priests, all of whom were deceased. The archdiocese announced a groundbreaking and unique program—an independent outreach panel comprised of professionals, including a judge, a rehabilitation specialist and a police lieutenant. This panel provided those with legitimate claims of childhood sexual abuse the financial means to seek healing. Archbishop Chaput urged all victims of abuse by anyone affiliated with the archdiocese to come forward and meet with the independent panel. He made clear that attorneys for the archdiocese would not be present and that this was not part of litigation but instead was intended to be a ministry of the Church, in recognition of the wrongs done to these victims. The archbishop also offered to
meet with victims personally. More than 50 victims received compensation after this program was announced and this work was concluded by 2010.
The work of Cardinal Stafford, Archbishop Chaput and me, now that I am the steward of this archdiocese, is focused on protecting children. Above all, the archdiocese has for decades maintained a zero-tolerance policy towards credible accusations of sexual abuse by priests and laity who are affiliated with the archdiocese. While incidents of sexual abuse will always exist in society, the archdiocese remains active in enforcing its policies and longstanding zero-tolerance approach.
Besides working to prevent abuse, the archdiocese is committed to praying for the victims who have suffered from the sins of cardinals, bishops, priests or any other Church employee. For this reason, I invite anyone who would like to pray for the healing of these wounds to join me at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for Masses of reparation on Sept. 9, Oct. 7 at 10:30 a.m., and on Nov. 7 and Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m. I have also asked every priest in the archdiocese to publicize and offer a monthly Mass for the healing of victims of abuse by clergy members and any others in society. When one sees that in the general population 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse, it is clear there is much to pray for!
May our Blessed Mother intercede for all those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy members and guide the Church in these trying times. May the Spirit of Truth fill every disciple of Jesus and lead us to the truth of his love and mercy, setting us free of all deceit and lies, so that our wills may be conformed to the will of the Father!
Pray, my dearest brothers and sisters, for the Spirit of Truth to descend upon every member of the Church, for your prayer is powerful when it is grounded in trust and confidence in the promises of Jesus and the love of the Father!