This is a letter from Fr. Walsh that will appear in the August 31 and September 1 bulletin
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Last week, I wrote to you and expressed the sorrow I feel for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Church officials and the sadness I feel for you and the pain you have endured as faithful Catholics. I noted that our Church has always been made up of flawed individuals and our Church has gone through many humbling moments in our history because of sin. This is one such moment. Our Church is in the furnace and this is where we need to be until we get this problem resolved. But, because the Holy Spirit continues to guide our Church, we will emerge a stronger and more faithful Church.
I’d like to touch upon what St. Pius and our diocese have been doing to assure this tragedy will not be repeated moving forward. Since 2002, all parishes and dioceses in the US follow the guidelines of a document that is referred to as the “Dallas Charter.” There are many components to this charter but I will highlight the two points I find most relevant to St. Pius. 1) Any adult at St. Pius (or any other Catholic institution) who works with youth under the age of 18, must pass a background check and have safe environment training before they can interact with youth. This goes well beyond St. Pius School and religious education teachers. It involves any ministry where adults interact with youth. 2) All children in Catholic Schools and parish religious education programs are required to have a yearly safe environment training class to better understand signs of inappropriate behavior (unless a parent chooses to have their child opt out). The diocese is audited regularly by an outside agency for compliance with the charter and St. Pius is regularly audited by the diocese for compliance. While I make no excuses for the sin of sexual abuse in our Church, national and local statistics have shown that the “Dallas Charter” is working. There have been relatively few occurrences of sexual abuse by Church employees over the past 17 years on both a national and local basis.
Lastly, as someone who has been involved in the acceptance process and formation of seminarians since 1999, I am confident we are getting healthy men entering the priesthood. All men desiring acceptance as seminarians are given extensive psychological testing, background checks, interviews and required letters of recommendations to assure we are accepting healthy individuals for priesthood. Seminarians are then evaluated by numerous people over their years of formation (generally 4-6 years) prior to ordination.
At St. Pius, we will remain vigilant in protecting our children. I am available to speak with anyone on this issue who may have a desire to do so.
This is a letter from Fr. Walsh that appeared in the August 24 and 25 bulletin
Dear St. Pius Parish Family,
August 14th marked the first day that those sexually abused as children in New York State in years past could bring civil action against their perpetrators. This past week and a half has been painful on several fronts. First and foremost, this has been a painful time for those who have been abused (and painful for their families) by clergy, religious or church employees. A sacred bond of trust was broken that minors and vulnerable adults assumed was present and it has caused immeasurable pain for many survivors of sexual abuse. It took courage for many victims to come forward to tell their painful stories. I pray that they can find healing and I ask you to join me in this prayer.
You also have been affected by this scandal. I feel badly for the pain it has caused you as a faithful Catholic. No doubt you have had family, friends, co-workers or neighbors ask why you remain Catholic when so many sick stories of sinful acts have become public. I have no right to speak for you but will offer why I remain committed to this Church. I stay in this Church because I believe this is the Church that was formed by Christ 2000 years ago and that the Holy Spirit stills guides our Church. If our Church wasn’t guided by the Holy Spirit, it would have imploded centuries ago. Our Church has always been made up of flawed individuals, including myself. St. Augustine summed it up best when he said our Church is “a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.” If we were all saints, we wouldn’t need a Church. Throughout our history, Christ has always worked in the midst of mess and sin, and his Church has always emerged stronger. It will happen again. But, right now, we’re in the furnace and that’s where we need to be until we resolve this situation. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to try and live out the great commandment to love God and love my neighbor. I hope you’ll join me in doing the same. Know that our Church needs you now more than ever, similar to those times of crisis in the past. We will emerge from the furnace a stronger and more faithful Church.
Next week, I will discuss a few thoughts on what our Church and diocese are doing currently to assure a crisis of this nature will not occur again in the future.
I am available to speak further with anyone who might desire to do so.