A new film, Spotlight, opened in Chicago land movie theaters this week. It portrays the Boston Globe Pulitzer-Prize winning 2002 coverage of the Massachusetts clerical sexual abuse crisis. I haven’t decided if I want to see the movie. Clerical sexual abuse of minors is a tragedy and a painful chapter in our faith, especially for the victims of abuse and their families. The Archdiocese of Chicago, like many organizations who work with young people, has struggled with this issue.
Our Church needs to always seek mercy and forgiveness for any harmful and disrespectful actions that have been inflicted upon the people of God. We need to always reach out with care to those who have become disillusioned by the lack of honesty and poor leadership of our Church. Understandably, regaining their trust and confidence will be a long and slow process. I pray for the Holy Spirit to help heal relationships that have been broken.
Since 1992, the actions that occurred in the Archdiocese of Chicago regarding clerical sexual abuse of minors differ substantially to what is shown in the film but our Archdiocese did take decisive action early—more than twenty years ago. At the time, Cardinal Bernardin challenged his fellow bishops across the United States to deal with this issue head on.
There are a few important ways Chicago’s handling of the abuse crisis differs from the story told in Spotlight. In 1992, 10 years before the Boston Globe series ran, the Archdiocese of Chicago put in place a lay majority, an independent Review Board to examine cases of clerical sexual abuse of minors and make recommendations to the Archbishop regarding the cleric’s fitness for ministry. The Archdiocese of Chicago established a victim assistance ministry in 1992, one of the first such ministries in the U.S. to provide pastoral care and support to victims of clerical sexual abuse and their families. Six Archdiocese priests have been credibly accused of sexual abuse that occurred after 1992. The last instance of sexual abuse of a child by a priest that we know of occurred in the Archdiocese in 2006, nearly 10 years ago. We pray and work diligently so it will never happen again.
Since 1992, the Archdiocese has strengthened its notification policy for reporting abuse of minors to public authorities. Since 2002 through today, all allegations of abuse of minors are reported to public authorities.
The Archdiocese of Chicago has trained more than 190,000 priests, deacons, religious, lay employees and volunteers to recognize and prevent abuse and more than 250,000 children to protect themselves from sexual predators. To date, the Archdiocese of Chicago has completed more than 150,000 background checks on clergy, employees and volunteers who work with children.
Every parish and school in the Archdiocese of Chicago has regular onsite audits to ensure compliance with Archdiocese policies and the Charter of Protection of Children and Young People. Annually every parish and school submits compliance data to the Office of Protection of Children and Youth to demonstrate compliance.
We know we don’t have a fool-proof system, no organization can, but we do have a very strong and thoughtful system in place and we are committed to being vigilant in providing a safe environment for children to grow and thrive. We must also continue to serve victim survivors and call for those who suffer from sexual misconduct of Church personnel to come forward for pastoral care and support.
Archbishop Cupich served as the Chair for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People for three years. From his experience with the USCCB, as well as his work in other dioceses across the U.S. our Archbishop brings a deep and serious understanding and commitment to the issue of clerical abuse and the protection of children.
My Thank You List
Thank you to all who participated in the Baby-Bottle project last month. The Women’s Centers of Chicago greatly appreciate your generosity and support.
Thank you to those who hosted the wine and cheese reception last Saturday at Immaculate Conception. It was fun to mingle after Mass.
Thank you to those who said “YES” to the Wedding Sacristan appeal last weekend. We have room for more volunteers. Let me know if you are interested in this rewarding ministry. I can point you in the right direction.
Thank you to all who brought a bag of food to church today for the poor. Your donations will certainly help struggling families get through the Thanksgiving holiday.
Thanks also to those who will deliver the food to our Sharing Parish and those who will stock the shelves at our Parish Food Pantry.
Thank you to our Ministers of Care who helped to organize our Anointing of the Sick Masses this weekend. I admire their compassion and care for those in need of healing in mind, body and spirit. It is comforting to know that we are not alone in our time of need, and that others are praying for us. Please pray for those who are unable to attend our Sunday worship because they are ill. We know that they are with us in spirit.
Thank you to our parishioners who have been serving on the Parish Transformation Committee. I have enjoyed our dialogue and reflection on how we can best enhance the overall mission of our parish. The program concludes this week. The committee is in the midst of finalizing a long-range plan for the future; one that will be shared with Bishop Kane, our Vicar, and parishioners in the next couple of weeks.
Thank you to the 2nd Graders in our Religious Education program who let me come into their classroom last Sunday and teach them about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was a lot of fun. They have a great sense of humor.