Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Armidale

The diocese of Armidale has at last a website (thanks to the Cooees for the alert).

It is only a temporary site at the moment, but a welcome demonstration of a commitment to transparency and accountability.

From it, here is Bishop Kennedy's excellent Pastoral Letter on the Fr F case.

Pastoral letter

Over the past fortnight the approach of the Catholic Church and the Armidale Diocese to historical allegations of child abuse has been the subject of significant media attention. I am very much aware that this must be a source of great pain and justified anger for you, as it is for me.

We remember, however, that our pain and anger must be as nothing when compared to that of the abuse victims and their families. To them I extend my deepest sympathies. I share the community abhorrence of all child abuse and desire to see justice achieved. It is my hope that the independent review I have established will demonstrate my commitment to an outcome of justice.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of child abuse when he was in Australia for World Youth Day in 2008. I repeat his words here since they accurately express my own thoughts too:

“Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. They have caused great pain and have damaged the Church's witness.

I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil.

Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.

It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people.”

Our Responsibilities

I invite all of us as a Church community to:

1. Recognise and publicly acknowledge the historical reality of child abuse in our Church

2. Work to provide support to abuse victims and to those who have been affected by abuse

3. Cooperate with relevant authorities in investigations of abuse allegations

4. Maintain child protection programmes to maximise the safety and wellbeing of our children

5. Encourage & support your local Parish Priests ‐ who feel deep shame for the sins and crimes of their brothers

6. Scrupulously pursue truth and justice


Please join me in praying for the victims of child abuse; may they receive justice, healing, and peace, and may this terrible scourge be forever removed from our midst. And please join me in working to ensure that this is the case."

Same sex 'marriage'

PS The website also has an outstandingly good pastoral letter on same-sex marriage - by far the most persuasive not only of any of the bishop's statements I've read thus far, but also sitting well above most of the articles around on the subject.

I'll blog on it separately when I get time, but I do urge you to go read it - it deals with the issue of homosexuality head on, and the likely consequences for religious liberty drawing on concrete examples from overseas.

I'm thinking of moving dioceses!


Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

Dear Kate, a fine pastoral letter from Bishop Kennedy except for the fact he too considers that "sex abuse in our church" equals that committed by clergy and religious. You have heard from me on this before. It seems that the only sex abuse that occurs in the church is only sex abuse when it perpetrated by clerics and appears in the media. There were 7,000 reported cases of child sex abuse in NSW in 2010. How many actual cases? How massive the cover up of these and thousands of other cases? These statistics were reported only on the ABC News 24 website as far as I could discover. No publicity = no crime to answer for. Is there no one in the church, media or government who will address the bigger picture as well? Not the Pope, not Bishop Kennedy and not Kate.

Kate Edwards said...

The problem Father, is firstly that the Church has undermined its ability to speak up on those broader issues by its continued mishandling of the abuse crisis.

And secondly, one might suggest that the gross mismanagement of these cases reflects the refusal to accept and in the case of priests and bishops, to actually teach the faith.

The evidence suggests for example that the children most at risk of sexual abuse in a family situation are those children in sole parent households where the parent engages in sexual relationships outside of marriage, and in households where one of the parents is not biologically related to the child (due to co-habitation or remarriage).

Yet when was the last sermon you preached about the evils of divorce, co-habitation, and remarriage outside the Church Father? Or on the virtue of chastity inside of or outside of marriage?

If you have preached such sermons you would be the extremely rare exception! Certainly in most places I would bet that the very suggestion that these things are sins and anyone who has committted them and not confessed them should refrain from communion would result in a mass walkout of the congregation.

Anonymous said...

Fr Ronan Kilgannon is absolutely right. Thousands of Aussie children are still being abused and hardly amy mention is made about it in the media. We seem to be more interested in what happened a few years ago than what is happening today. Is the media behaving as irresponsibly as the few members of the clergy did in the past?