The recent report of the Pennsylvania grand jury on clerical sexual abuse has shaken the faith of many people in Southern Louisiana and our whole country. The number of victims and perpetrators in the report is staggering. The pain and hurt inflicted on children over decades, the lives of hundreds of individuals and families whom these crimes have severely affected upset all of us. Moreover, the cover-ups that failed to protect these children and end this sinful behavior are appalling and bewildering.
As a Catholic priest for 54 years, I would like to apologize to anyone who has ever been a victim of sexual abuse by any member of the church’s personnel. I am sorry for any harm or pain anyone might have experienced and if I can do anything to ease that pain, please let me know. I do believe that God’s compassionate love and Jesus’ healing power will bring us through this difficult time.
However, we as a Church must honestly and persistently deal with the culture that allowed the abuse of children to continue. We must address the sins committed in our communities, address the suffering and trauma it has caused, and work to bring healing and justice to its victims. We must also radically change the culture that permitted and protected it.
Addressing this problem in an open letter, Pope Francis said, “Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain. So it is urgent that we again reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.”