Has Anything Changed?

Over the past weeks, I have received many letters from concerned Catholics over the renewed scandal surrounding child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. I am grateful for the time and effort that goes into writing one’s bishop, and grateful for the passion expressed in the desire that our Church be purified and restored, so that it can be that “city on a hill” and the “light of the world” which Jesus intends it to be.

One of the things I also became aware within the letters and of so many local and national comments that many of our members are not aware of the remarkable changes that have occurred in our Church, and specifically our diocese, over the recent years. The latest news events can give the impression that nothing has changed. The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report which was the catalyst for the latest scandal was a historical review of behavior in several of the Pennsylvania dioceses going back 70 years, with the majority of the abuse in the seventies and eighties. What was somewhat new in the report was a more detailed description of how some bishops responded to those incidents with a lack of transparency and accountability. One can easily get the impression that nothing has changed in any diocese from the 1940s onward.

It is often difficult to find the right balance in sharing good news on this subject. It can appear that there is an effort to minimize or distract from the seriousness of what has happened to and, tragically, often continues to impact negatively victim-survivors. It is also awkward in that one might be perceived as “tooting one’s own horn” as a way of soliciting praise. But, on the other hand, the other extreme is problematic too. If good news is not shared fully, many will be left with the impression that the Church and her institutions are not safe, wholesome places for worship, learning, and community.

Several of the letters I have received urge the implementation of protocols for safe environments and removing abusers. Others ask about how we are forming our seminarians. It struck me that I need to share more information on these topics, not less; share more often the great work of many of our parishioners, parish and chancery staff, and clergy. Our diocese has devoted many good people and abundant resources to making our parishes and schools safe for our children and young people. We have clear and strong protocols for responding to allegations of child sexual abuse, beginning with reporting and cooperating with law enforcement and additionally, not to interefere with active law enforcement investigations, an independent Ombudsman to investigate suspected agents of the Church (i.e., priest, deacon, lay employees) likewise in a search for the truth. Once an investigation is completed, the Independent Review Board helps to advise me on a person’s suitability for ministry. Our Office of Child and Youth Protection offers training to identify, report and prevent abuse through our safe environment policy. Over 35,000 adults in our diocese have been trained since 2002. About 13,000 children receive age-appropriate training each year in our diocesan schools and parish schools of religion. We require background checks of all clerics, diocesan employees and of anyone who volunteers in a program for children or youth. We work to promote healing and reconciliation by providing outreach and care to those abused by an agent of the Church. The ministries of healing, prevention and responding to allegations are strong in this diocese and we continue to review and make improvements to strengthen our safety net of protection for children and right living.

Many changes have also been made over the most recent decades in our seminaries to make our programs of formation comprehensive and thorough so that our parishes have healthy, holy, joyful priests. Our diocese and each of the seminaries we use have admissions processes that require each applicant to undergo a thorough psychological evaluation and comprehensive background check, so that we have a detailed knowledge of each man’s mental and psychological health, along with his personal history. Our seminaries have counselling and psychological services, including psychologists, to assist in human development. Each seminarian meets regularly with both a spiritual director and a formation advisor. These personnel meet several times a year to assess the progress of each seminarian in all the dimensions of formation so that any potential problems can be identified and addressed for the sake of the man and of the Church. Finally, I have instructed all of our seminarians to immediately inform me of any misconduct they witness or experience in the course of their formation, and to do so without fear.

We are blessed to have good men as our seminarians. They realize their future service as priests will present challenges and hardships that did not confront previous generations, but they are filled with faith and a joyful love for Christ and his Church, and a desire to say “yes” to God’s call to generously serve others and take up the Cross and follow Jesus. Please continue to pray for them as they work with our seminary formation staffs to become “parish-ready.”

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  • Phillip

    You fail to share even part of content many letters you say you receive. There is anger distrust, and disgust which I fear no pointy hat nor feminine sikws robed cleric will find security. The world knows knows of you now.

    Consider if La Petete Acadamy whereto have the same history as the RCC. Would they be in existence today? NO. Should they be if they shuffled their sexually teachers across state lines to protect their name? NO. Catholics need to shut up their pocket books and put you silk laden men out on the street to beg for food. How you go about it it will be your businesses but i hope you are locked up for prostitution as that seems to be your MO.

    Play dress-up, feel feminine if you wish, but people are beginning to know yours is a corrupt organizations that has lasted for centuries due to fear. But your threat is over. Humanity no longer fears you – except what fear you brin to them raping their children.

    Go to jail and bunk up with a man who is bigger than you. Then you will understand what Rape is about.

    • Melany

      Phillip, I beg God to forgive you.

      • Phillip

        Nothing like a Catholic to turn a person’s stomach with their back-handed insults.

        I was raped by a priest. Have You?

        I forgave him a long time ago considering him a very sick individual supported by a very sick institution.

        Now – is there anyone in your life that you hold ill will towards? That should be your focus. Not me.

        • Melany

          Phillip, I am praying for you. God bless you.

        • Melany

          Phillip, you assume that I am a Catholic. Interesting. I was abused by individuals as a very young child, so I never developed a “self-identity.” I have struggled with this each day for the past 50+ years. I don’t know which is worse – remembering or not remembering. Either way, it is torture. I do know that attacking Bishop Johnston is not the answer. He is a fine servant leader. I’m not sure this is even the appropriate forum for a discussion. It would be far better to have conversations in person so that a tone of respect can be set and dialogue towards problem solving can occur. Are you doing anything yourself to help victims of abuse? I’m beginning an addiction studies program to become a licensed counselor. Please pray for me that I can successfully complete this program. I start many “projects” and am not able to finish them because of my PTSD. So many victims, including me, have a “hole” deep inside of us that we often fill with some type of addictive behavior(s). When we reach out to help others, we help ourselves. I’m not perfect and I also have my share of angry outbursts. My prayer for you is that you do not judge an entire group of people by the inhumane actions of some. (I learned this valuable lesson within our Jewish community and I am very grateful.)

          • Phillip

            Am I doing anything to help other victims? I came forward publically many years ago about my abuse – before it was fashionable to do so. I led the SNAP group for a number of years whilst I lived in the Springfield MO diocese (when Law was still around). I then returned back to KC and helped the SNAP group there as well. I felt I had no choice but to take an active role in assisting others who might have felt the way I felt. I was also part of KI (Traditional Orthodox Jewish Community in Overland Park KS) and before that, Temple Israel in Springfield MO. I am not Catholic. I am a Jew.

            Now I live in S. Africa. Child abuse here is far greater on many levels more than just religious. Ancient tribal customs remain. Rape of children to cure AIDS seems to be one of the largest problems. Killing of children for Muti (body parts) remains a practice. Discrediting of woman as valuable members of society is another problem So yes, as much as I can without placing my own life and the life of my family in danger I remain an active aid to those who need help for such situations. But the rules are quite different here in S. Africa than in the protectionist culture of America. People end up dead here for speaking out.

          • Melany

            Thank you for sharing this with me, Phillip. It’s good to listen respectfully to each other’s stories. I am quite fond of the people at KI. I still correspondonce occasionally with Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz although he and family are now living in Arizona. And, as you know, Rabbi Shron and his wife, Hedy, moved to Israel a short time ago. I did not know about the situation in S. Africa. It is horrifying. It appears that my own world perspective regarding sexual abuse needs much broadening. I am grateful for your time sharing this with me. G-d be with you, your family, and the people of S. Africa. You have a friend here, Phillip. Me.

  • Greg

    You are not living in a 1950’s sitcom, where everything turns out peachy in the end.
    The priesthood in this diocese is infested with homosexual men….NOW!. These men are intrinsically disordered.
    THAT MEANS THAT THEY ARE NOT NORMAL. GET IT ?!?!
    These men have molested children for decades in this Diocese. I am sure that they still are.
    Leopards do not changes their spots. The same leopards are still around.
    You are doing nothing except writing warm, fuzzy claptrap.

    • Melany

      Greg, I beg God to forgive you.

      • Phillip

        Melany after reading the rest of your posts I find it totally out of character for you to say “I beg Gd to forgive you”. Forgiveness comes from תשובה. No blood required.
        And תשובה can only be done by the individual.

        Playing the prayerful soul grows tiresome.

Tuesday
November 13, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph