Clergy Sex Abuse of MinorsSunday Assembly

Service of Lament held to pray for clergy sex abuse victims, church

By Dan Russo

Witness Editor

DUBUQUE — Archbishop Michael Jackels wore a plain white alb and simple stole as he led the opening penitential rite at a Service of Lament recently.

About 200 Catholics from around the archdiocese, including clergy, seminarians, religious and lay people, joined him Sept. 14 at St. Raphael Cathedral in Dubuque to pray for the victims of clergy sex abuse and ask for pardon and guidance for the church. In addition to a call for humility before God, the service also included the expression of a renewed commitment to action.

“This service is something like going to confession,” said Archbishop Jackels in his homily. “Even though clergy sex abuse, the failure to protect, isn’t your sin or mine, I acknowledge it as a grave sin made worse when the abuser was ordained to protect and heal. I lament the hurt done to victims and others. And like going to confession, I have said sorry and asked pardon repeatedly for the harm done by priests here in the past and by bishops elsewhere. But people have rightfully reminded me that that isn’t enough. It’s also necessary to have a purpose and a plan for amendment, to do things differently.”

The Service of Lament was one part of the archdiocesan response to new revelations over the last few months about clergy sex abuse and cover up on the part of some bishops in the United States and other countries (See accompanying summary).

During the homily, he discussed efforts by the archdiocese to address the issue.

“… I remain committed to report accusations to the civil authorities and to our Archdiocesan Review Board and to remove offending priests from ministry,” said the archbishop. “But as this current scandal is as much about bishops who failed to protect as it is about priests who abused, bishops who didn’t do what they said they did — I would understand if you found it hard to trust me. I’ve been racking my brain over what more needs to be done to prevent harm in the future and to restore trust, not so much in me, as in the church.”

Archbishop Jackels is shown above at the Service of Lament Sept. 14. (Photo by Dan Russ0/TheWitness)
Action Steps

Archbishop Jackels said he has received multiple suggestions and several measures are being acted upon.

“One suggestion we’re pursuing is to find the mechanism whereby reporting accusations and the accountability for action, don’t have to be filtered through me or through my office — something like a hotline or a whistleblower hotline,” he said. “Another suggestion is to correct the spirit of clericalism, wherever it raises its ugly head.”

Archbishop Jackels clarified that most clergy seek ordination not for power or privilege, but rather to serve. Nonetheless, they are vulnerable to developing a sense of entitlement and superiority, he said. The archbishop reflected that it is not just a danger for clergy, but for anyone serving in the church.

“I’ll continue to rack my brain for how to do things differently in order to prevent clergy sex abuse and to protect people from harm,” said the archbishop. “And towards that end I will especially search for ways to cure the lie of the spirit of the world in clerics, in other church members, but first in myself”

Chair of Archdiocesan Review Board Addresses Congregation

Randal Nigg, chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board, also spoke at the service. The board was created after U.S. bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 following a clergy sex abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston. A national review board has been established since then. Individual bishops consult with local boards when evaluating abuse allegations or when crafting and  reviewing policies that safeguard minors and vulnerable adults.

“I have been on the review board while both Archbishop (Jermoe) Hanus and Archbishop Jackels have dealt with abuse cases as well as establishing dioce­san policy and procedure for handling safety and accountability,” said Nigg.

He informed the congregation about the board’s most recent efforts. The members are in the process of updating the Archdiocesan Charter for the Protection of Children following revisions to the national charter in June.

“Specifically, we are reorganizing and revising several related standards of conduct dealing with contact with minors and vulnerable adults,” said Nigg. “All priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, lay employees and volunteers and entities of the archdiocese must know and agree to comply with these standards.”

Nigg also reported that earlier this summer the archbishop consulted with the board about a new safe environment training program and screening processes for personnel.

“All the same people I just mentioned must be certified in the training by year’s end, no matter what might be their association with the archdiocese,” he said. “Criminal background checks have been required of the same persons since 2003 and for any new hires.”

Every Catholic diocese in the nation engages in audits each year to ensure they are complying with the requirements of the national charter, according to Nigg. The board is now considering including randomly selected parishes into its annual audits under the child protection charter.

“This would be in addition to procedures already in place for the financial audits the archdiocese conducts at parishes,” said  Nigg.

Randal Nigg, chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board, speaks at the Sept. 14 prayer service. (Photo by Dan Russo/The Witness)

In other developments, the board is exploring the possibility of a new “whistleblower” system for allegations against bishops, which the archbishop alluded to in his homily. Nigg also reported that the archdiocese has transferred the duties of the former director of the Archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children to the human resources director and vicar general.

“The archbishop continues to monitor how that is functioning with us,” said Nigg.

Archbishop Jackels concluded the service with a consecration of the archdiocese to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Diane  Fasselius of St. John the Baptist Parish, Peosta, said she  participated in the Service of Lament because she wanted to join the church community in asking for God’s help during the current crisis. She distinguished between the value of the church as a whole and the horrible actions of some members.

“I love my faith,” she said.

Sister Margaret Kramer, PBVM, attended because she wanted to pray for healing for abuse victims and also for the majority of priests, who she emphasized have nothing to do with the scandals.

“There are so many good priests,” said Sister Margaret. “We can’t turn our backs on them.”     

View a video of the service here 


A brief summary of recent developments in the church sex abuse crisis in 2018

By Dan Russo

Witness Editor

In late June, news broke about a church investigation into former ­Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, 88,  that found credible the accusations of several seminarians who claimed the cardinal engaged in sexual misconduct with them. Pope Francis later required McCarrick’s resignation as a cardinal, and he has been removed from public ministry.  On Aug. 14, the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed abuse of 1,000 victims who were minors over the course of 70 years in six dioceses in that state. The report covered a period beginning in the 1940s through 1990. The report states that church leaders, some of who are still in active ministry, shielded several hundred accused priests from justice.

On Aug 20, the pope released a letter to all Catholics in response to the report (See page 13 of this week’s issue). On Aug 26, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who served as apostolic nuncio to the United States from 2011-2016, released an 11-page statement that accused church officials, including Pope Francis, of failing to act on allegations of sexual abuse and abuse of power against Archbishop McCarrick. Pope Francis indirectly alluded to the Vigano letter in a Sept. 3 homily.

“With people lacking good will, with people who seek only scandal, with those who look only for division, who want only destruction,” said Pope Francis, according to Vatican News, the best response is “silence, prayer.”

On Sept. 13, the pope met with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other leaders of the U.S. church to discuss the possibility of an investigation into the accusations surrounding Archbishop McCarrick and also the opening  of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops.

In the past several months, new revelations and allegations about clergy sex abuse and bishop misconduct have also surfaced in several other countries, including Chile, Germany, Australia and Ireland.

Pope Francis has called for the presidents of every Catholic bishops conference in the world to meet with him in Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

This summary was compiled using Catholic News Service and Vatican News reports.