Bishop Shelton Fabre recently published a pastoral letter entitled “Light in the Darkness” dealing with child sexual abuse. The following are some highlights of his pastoral.
I write to you because of your faith in Jesus Christ and the important part you play as the Body of Christ, the Church. The Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux has released the names of any priest with a credible allegation of child sexual abuse since our inception in 1977. Be assured that no priest in current active ministry in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux is on the list.
I want to apologize for the detestable sins that have taken place. Let me be clear: the abuse of a child by anyone is sinful, abhorrent and evil, particularly when perpetrated by one vested with the sacred trust of God’s children. Furthermore, any attempt to cover up these sins is even more disturbing. I apologize to all who have been harmed. It is with deep respect and profound reverence that I humbly extend this apology.
It is understandable if victims and their families feel angry and abandoned because the leadership of the church failed to respond to their distress adequately and attend to their needs. The necessary lifelong process of healing after experiencing abuse is a road marked with struggles and I pray that the Church can assist you every step of the way.
I am fully aware that the ords “I’m sorry” ring hollow in light of what you have endured, but I apologize on behalf of the Church for damages caused by any cleric who has sinned. I apologize if victims and their families ever felt shunned by the church or if any bishop at any time failed to listen to them. With deep personal grief in my own heart, I express that I am sorry.
If you have been a victim of child sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, I, with great reverence, say to you: Our door is open and we invite you to come forward. Our Victims’ Assistance Coordinator is Sister Carmelita Centanni, M.S.C., Ph.D. Sr. Carmelita is a Licensed Professional Clinical Psychologist with more than 30 years of counseling experience, plus 16 years as a Victims’ Assistance Coordinator. You may call Sr. Carmelita directly at 985-850-3172 or by email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sr. Carmelita and I, as your bishop, are here to help you. We are committed, now more than ever, to walking with you toward healing. If you have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being or has been abused by anyone, please first contact the civil authorities by calling the Louisiana Child Abuse Hotline at 855-452-5437. If you suspect that the abuser is a member of church personnel, after calling civil authorities please also call Sr. Carmelita. You may also call the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux Outreach Line at 985-873-0026.
Let me explain the process used to determine this release of names. The 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People outlines the norms and policies that we must follow regarding the sexual abuse of a minor. The Charter not only defines what sexual abuse is, but also outlines what matters we must bring before the Diocesan Lay Review Board. We brought all such matters to our Diocesan Lay Review Board in the fall of 2018.
As bishop, I decided to give the Diocesan Lay Review Board the authority to determine whether the allegations had evidence of credibility and were substantiated. In so doing, the Diocesan Lay Review Board determined and recommended to me the list of the published names. Our Diocesan Lay Review Board consists of leaders with more than 200 years of expertise in law enforcement, legal and medical professions, and social services. Our current board is chaired by Judge Morris Lottinger, Jr., retired chief judge of the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal. The other six members of the Diocesan Lay Review Board remain confidential.
I encourage you to visit our website: htdiocese.org/lightinthedarkness. On this webpage, you will also find the full text of my Pastoral Letter and other resources regarding this issue, including videos for adults, parents and youth.