Diocese of Rockville Centre

April 2, 2010

Permit me to comment on the recent news reports concerning our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.

Let me first say that abuse of children and minors by clergy is a horrible tragedy, a sin, a crime.  Every time we read news reports of innocent children and young people who have been abused by a priest or by others in or outside the Church, we must always say no to anyone who abuses positions of power and respect in order to harm God’s little ones, scarring them and leaving them and their families with such profound suffering.  That priests did this is a repugnant horror and a cross the Church will bear for a very long time.

Sadly, it took the horror of the tragedy to wake us up to assume proper responsibility in these areas.  What has happened over these past many years here in our country and what is happening now in parts of Europe remind us that we can never cease to be vigilant.  We can never assume incidents cannot happen again.   

Protecting our children requires serous effort, sincere commitment and ongoing vigilance.  It means diligence in background screenings and Virtus training.  It means all of us remembering that so long as there is one child who has been abused, we have to beg forgiveness, offer whatever therapeutic help we can and recommit ourselves day after day.  The Church has done much and we can all be thankful for that.  We can never become complacent and never be boastful.  We must constantly pray to God for strength to be faithful to our commitment, be ever mindful of those who this day and every day continue to suffer, and do our best, humbly and sincerely, to make amends by doing what is right and living up to the responsibility that is ours.

The news media have the vocation to report news and to cover stories such as those we have seen these past days.  That is their job and often they have helped us recognize wrongs we had to correct.  Yet the stories and columns that have appeared in The New York Times in the days leading up to and including Holy Week have taken half truths and filled them with innuendo and insinuation, thus giving the public a false picture of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, now as well as in his prior role as Cardinal Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  The truth is that. thanks in no small measure to his leadership, the Church’s response to the horror of sex abuse has been far and away more serious and effective than any other group including the media, public entities or private groups.

I concur fully with my brother bishops who serve on the executive committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops who have said publicly on Tuesday of Holy Week that Pope Benedict XVI is deeply concerned for those who have been harmed by abuse.  He has reached out and cared for the Church’s victims and supported our efforts to provide safe environments for children in our parishes and schools.

Make no mistake, The Times and other media outlets are willing enablers of efforts by certain individuals, groups and organizations who use the sinful and criminal actions of priests as a stalking horse to undermine and marginalize our Church.  You should feel free to let them know your thoughts and reactions to the distortions that hurt and tarnish rather than help to remedy wrongs and build for the future.

The Church in the United States has learned much and has addressed well these issues.   The recent Annual Report on Diocesan Compliance with the Dallas Charter, conducted by CARA (cf. www.usccb.org) confirms what the Church, as no other private or public entity in our country, has accomplished. Other churches elsewhere can learn from what we have had to learn.  We could not have done this and achieved the progress we have without the support and determination of our Holy Father, both as Prefect of the Congregation that dealt with these issues and as Pope Benedict.  I believe, and others concur, that by responding to this horror through the leadership of our Holy Father there is now no safer place for children and young people than a Catholic Church.

Here in our diocese, we have been found fully compliant by the outside auditors who have reviewed our parish as well as our diocesan efforts.  We have completed background screening for more than 84,000 employees and volunteers in our parishes, schools and diocesan offices.  We have more than 250 trained facilitators to conduct Virtus safe environment programs which have been given to more than 84,000 persons in our diocese.  

I must tell you that I am so grateful for all of the kind words of support for the Holy Father so many of you have expressed to me.  Some of you have even asked what you might be able to do to help.  I have written to the Holy Father to tell him of your support and your love for him.

Now we will continue to do what the Lord invites us always to do: pray.  Pray for all those who have been abused or who suffer in any way because of sins of the past, crimes perpetrated against them. Pray for our Holy Father.  Pray that these holy days, when we celebrate the Lord’s passion and death and the triumph of his resurrection from the dead, will pour forth God’s love on our Holy Father to protect and shield him.  Thank the Lord for giving us Pope Benedict XVI.  Pray also for me and all the priests of this diocese that we may be always worthy of your trust.  We need to be shielded and protected by God’s love so that we may always have the courage to continue to stand firm and vigilant.  We need to come closer to Him as the healer of the suffering and the guide for the vigilant.  Pray that we may continue to bring Christ to you and you to Christ in this great and precious diocese. And may the Risen Lord watch over us all now and in the years to come.

+William Murphy
Bishop of Rockville Centre