“What has been done has, no doubt, been helpful in assuring that such crimes do not occur.
We still, however, must be attentive and watchful, and we must also recognize that steps
taken to avoid harm in the future only remind us of the grave harm
that has been done to those who were abused in the past.”
PORTLAND---"It is a day of prayer and fasting in the diocese in reparation for the hurt caused to the victims/survivors of the sexual abuse of minors by clerics. It is also an opportunity to pray for those same victims/survivors and all those who have been harmed by such sexual abuse.”
The words of Bishop Robert P. Deeley fell upon the solemn assembly at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Friday afternoon, March 2, at the annual Mass for the diocesan-wide Day of Prayer and Penance.
“We come together during Lent, the Church’s season for repentance and reconciliation, to be mindful of the terrible harm that has been done by the sexual abuse of minors by clerics in the Church,” the bishop said during his homily. “This day is done each year so that we can continually remind ourselves of the gravity of the harm, and the resolve we have made to be vigilant in our efforts to make the Church a safe environment for children and all those who seek in the Church a place to draw near to God.”
Priests throughout the diocese observed the Day of Prayer and Penance by offering Masses on Friday that included prayers for victims/survivors of abuse for their healing; for Church leaders entrusted with the care of “the Lord’s flock” to follow in the example set by Jesus; for civic leaders to promote peace; for perpetrators of abuse to seek and find repentance and face justice; for all those who work with young people to do so with a spirit of respect and humility; for families to create a safe, loving, nurturing, and peaceful environment for their children; and for counselors and advocates who provide help to survivors of abuse to exercise wisdom and compassion.
“Our presence here is a public acknowledgement of these grave crimes,” said Bishop Deeley. “And it is, therefore, also an acknowledgement of the harm done to those who were the victims of these crimes. It is an opportunity to be mindful of the pain of the victims. We pray, then, for repentance by those within the Church who allowed these crimes to occur, and we pray for healing for those who have been harmed. We remember our painful history in order to be sure that it will not repeat itself. We resolve to answer promptly and with pastoral sensitivity anyone who reports such sexual abuse in the future.”
Since the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, the Diocese of Portland has worked diligently to ensure a safe environment for all young people. An independent, on-site audit of safe environment procedures conducted in 2017 found the diocese in full compliance with the Charter, which mandates that any representative of the Church who sexually abuses a minor be permanently removed from ministry. It also calls for the reporting of all complaints to civil authorities, thorough investigations of all complaints, and reimbursement of therapy for victims/survivors. Since 2002, over 14,000 Catholic Church employees, volunteers, priests and educators in Maine who work with children have been trained in a safe environment program, which includes mandatory background checks.
“I am grateful to our cluster and parish communities, our schools, and institutions, as well as those in the diocese who coordinate and direct these efforts,” said thebishop. “They work hard to ensure safe environments for our young people. The screenings, the trainings, and the reporting which we have adopted are all crucial elements in creating safe environments. We continue to provide pastoral care and counselling assistance to those who have been harmed by this abuse. What has been done has, no doubt, been helpful in assuring that such crimes do not occur. We still, however, must be attentive and watchful, and we must also recognize that steps taken to avoid harm in the future only remind us of the grave harm that has been done to those who were abused in the past.”
Bishop Deeley added praying for God’s assistance in these efforts is also necessary.
“Let us, in a spirit of penance ask the Lord, then, for his divine consolation for the victims/survivors and their families, and for the grace of being able, as God wishes for us, to accompany those who have been harmed on a path of healing and reconciliation. It is the Lord Jesus alone who heals and reconciles. May we ask, for ourselves, the grace to follow him. He will show us the way to peace.”
Bishop Deeley encourages anyone who may have information about any case of sexual abuse of a minor by a Church representative to contact civil authorities and Michael Magalski, Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility for the Diocese of Portland, at (207) 321-7836 or at email@example.com.