In wake sex abuse scandal, group develops plan to help heal church
SEATTLE (Jan. 28, 2020)-- A broad-based group of Catholics in Western Washington has called upon Archbishop Paul D. Etienne to join them in forming a Truth and Reconciliation process to heal the damage done here by the clergy abuse scandal.
The group, working under the title “Heal Our Church,” believes a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) formed and led by lay Catholics should conduct the process. The Commission would not be an agency of the Archdiocese. It would be genuinely independent.
“We seek healing: for the survivors, and for the broader church, which continues to lose parishioners because of the lack of transparency, and because there has not been a credible explanation of how and why these abuses happened and were allowed to continue,” said Colleen Kinerk, a member of the group.
Efforts by the archdiocese to disclose information about the scandal have not eased the anguish and anger that persists among most Catholics.
“Clearly the Archdiocese regardless of what they say and have done has a major credibility problem that will not go away on its own,” said Tim Law, a member of the group. “A truly independent investigation and report is necessary.” Added member Mike Sullivan, “Catholics around the nation and here in Western Washington recognize that the Bishops and clergy can’t police themselves.”
In their letter to Archbishop Etienne, the group outlined the commission’s primary activities:
“A review by the TRC of all files related to the sexual abuse scandal, followed by a report to the faithful regarding ‘how and why’ this scandal happened.
“Following the TRC report, we invite you to collaborate in convening a series of assemblies of lay and religious persons, open to all Catholics, to review the TRC report and its recommendations. This report likely will include a range of proposals bearing on the beliefs and practices of the church.
“The TRC model we envision,” the letter said, “represents a creative approach and unique opportunity to bring about healing and reconciliation. The many good works, community resources, traditions and liturgy of our church deserve no less.”
The group began work over a year ago. Its members include survivors of abuse, educators, therapists, lawyers, former judges and clergy, current and former government attorneys, and people involved in a variety of church activities.
A Truth and Reconciliation process in the Seattle Archdiocese would align well with recent declarations by Pope Francis. He has called for transparency by church officials regarding the sexual abuse scandal. And he has stressed the imperative of substantial involvement of lay Catholics in the affairs of the church.
The letter was delivered to the Archbishop at the Seattle Chancery on Friday. It asked Etienne for a meeting in the near term.
To read the letter to the Archbishop, CLICK HERE.