Letter To The Faithful From Bishop Joseph M. Siegel
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Over the past few months, our Church has once again been rocked with reports of misconduct by members of the clergy. First there were the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, then the release of the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, and finally last weekend the statement of Archbishop Viganò asserting wrongdoing and cover up of abuse on the part of high ranking Vatican officials, including Pope Francis. Our hearts are wrenched by the accounts of the suffering of the victims of clergy sexual abuse, and we are ashamed at how the leadership of the Church often dealt with these crimes.
The 2002 Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young People has helped our diocese to address this terrible problem by requiring a zero-tolerance policy toward those who abuse; safe environment training and background checks; a predominantly lay review board; prompt reporting to civil authorities; and a victim assistance coordinator. I am firmly committed to the strict enforcement of these provisions and ensuring that everyone involved in Church ministry understands that no abusive act of any kind will be tolerated. The Diocese of Evansville recently participated in our regular Safe Environment audit as required by the Charter, and we were found to be in compliance with its mandates. In the coming weeks, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will be initiating a thorough investigation of the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick utilizing a predominantly lay group of experts. The Conference will also establish new ways in which people can report misconduct complaints against bishops and will advocate for more effective and timely resolution of such allegations.
I ask that we continue to pray for and support all victims of sexual abuse, especially those harmed by members of the clergy. I will be leading prayer services for healing and reparation in each of our deaneries over the coming weeks. I invite our priests to likewise offer opportunities for their parishioners to gather in prayerful solidarity, remembering all those hurt by clergy sexual misconduct and asking God to purify and heal our Church.
These are painful times when we are asked by Christ to carry the cross with our wounded brothers and sisters and to bear the burden of the public sins and crimes of fellow members of the Church. Through Jesus’s death and resurrection, we know that sin and death do not have the final word. With God’s grace, we hope that our prayers, penances and efforts will help cleanse and renew our Church, restoring our vitality and integrity so that we might be the light of the world and effective messengers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Please be assured that I pray for you each day at Mass. I ask that you remember me in your prayers.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop Joseph M. Siegel