by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
This past Wednesday, the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph observed a Day of Prayer in Atonement for Those Harmed by Sexual Abuse in the Church. All of our parishes were asked to offer Mass and other prayers for this intention.
The sexual abuse scandal is one of the saddest chapters in the church’s history. The scandal involved representatives of the church, priests and bishops, violating their promises to God and the church by using innocent children or vulnerable adults for sexual pleasure. In so doing, they contradicted the church’s sexual moral teaching and inflicted grave emotional, psychological and spiritual harm on their victims. The scandal also included the failure of bishops to receive victims with openness and respect, to remove abusive priests and to protect those entrusted to their pastoral care.
I am grateful to the brave victims who overcame many obstacles to bring into the light the reality of sexual abuse within the church. I am also grateful to the staff of our archdiocesan office for protection and care, who implement our safe environment programs that include background checks and awareness training (Virtus) for all church employees and volunteers who interact with children and youth. The office for protection and care also oversees and monitors the implementation of best practices in our parishes, schools and ministries to make them protective environments for the safety of our children and youth.
The office for protection and care also assists me by conducting a thorough and diligent internal investigation when there is a disclosure of abuse. It is my goal to pursue the truth by taking all allegations seriously, while at the same time presuming both the sincerity of those reporting abuse as well as the innocence of those accused. The utilization of competent and well-trained professional investigators has assisted me tremendously in efforts to ascertain the truth.
I am also grateful to our Independent Review Board for contributing their time in making objective recommendations to me about the proper and appropriate response to an allegation. The board consists of primarily lay volunteers with expertise in child protection or sexual abuse. Their advice and counsel are invaluable.
Finally, the office for protection and care assists me in my responsibility to those harmed by abuse by caring for and accompanying victims. Using a victim-centered approach, our victim care advocates use restorative principles to work toward accountability and healing.
Thanks to the generosity of our parishioners, we have been able to engage a very competent and dedicated staff in the office for protection and care. The church has invested significantly in the protection of children and the care of victims, both with the qualified and experienced staff of the office for protection and care and our comprehensive services and resources — from our background screening and Virtus vendors. We simply cannot afford to fail in making our very best efforts for the protection of children and youth by working together to provide the safest environments possible.
Similarly, the church has a responsibility to invest generously in our commitment to those harmed by a representative of the church. Sadly, it is not possible to change the past, but we must make every effort to prevent abuse in the present moment and to do what is possible to work toward right relationships with people who have been harmed by the church.
I am grateful to all of our parishioners for providing the necessary resources to help the archdiocese fulfill its commitments both to the protection of the vulnerable as well as the care of those harmed.
I ask you also to pray for wisdom for me and the vigilance of the entire Catholic community in the protection of our children. What happened in the past must never happen again!
Please also pray often for the healing of victims. God’s grace can accomplish what is humanly impossible.
By the numbers
20,689 —Current number of active Virtus participants
57,253 — Total number of people who have participated in our safe environment protocols since adopting Virtus programing in 2002
1,510 — Total Protecting God’s Children abuse awareness workshops held since 2003
82 — Average Protecting God’s Children sessions per year
5,000 — Average background screenings per year
104,002 — Background screenings run since inception in 2003