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Regarding the difficult situation of Archbishop McCarrick

The immensely sad and disturbing past sexual misconduct by Archbishop Theodore McCarrick have once again brought sorrow, anger, and dismay to the American Catholic community. As your bishop, I grieve for the victims of the Archbishop’s abuse and fully support the efforts to ensure justice and accountability. Our first and foremost concern always must be for the victims. They deserve not only prayer, compassion and care, but justice and accountability.  As Cardinal Sean O’Malley has stated, “Words are not enough.” Action must accompany our words. 

Pope Francis has taken the important step of accepting McCarrick’s resignation from the College of Cardinals and assigning him to a life of prayer and penance. However, it also is important for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to review the current bishops’ charter for the protection of children and youth to address clergy abuse, otherwise known as the Dallas Charter. The Charter needs to ensure that procedures and practices are in place to hold clergy, employees, volunteers, and bishops to the same level of accountability. As one of the bishops with a background in the law that governs the affairs of the Church, I support this initiative. 

We are a Church of mercy; as Pope Francis constantly reminds us, “we all are sinners.” While forgiveness is at the heart of the Gospel, it is exercised always in conjunction with the virtue of justice. Mercy does not diminish the importance of accountability, of repentance and restoration of the scales of justice. We are challenged to follow the difficult path of discipleship to which Jesus calls us.

In response to the horrific clergy abuse scandal that erupted in 2002, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken steps to ensure that our parishes and ministries are places where children, vulnerable adults and others are safe from sexual abuse and predatory behavior. That commitment requires ongoing vigilance and never can be taken for granted. I take the opportunity provided by these sad revelations to remind anyone who may have experienced abuse in the Diocese of Tucson, to take the first step of contacting law enforcement officials and then, the Diocesan Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection at 520-838-2513.  

Through our efforts, prayer, and renewed commitment, may we together build up the Church that we love, the very body of Christ.

Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger

Diocese of Tucson

Con respecto a la difícil situación del arzobispo McCarrick

La enormemente triste y perturbadora conducta sexual pasada del arzobispo Theodore McCarrick una vez más ha causado angustia, ira y consternación en la comunidad católica de Estados Unidos. Como obispo de esta diócesis, siento pesar por las víctimas del arzobispo y apoyo plenamente las gestiones que se están llevando a cabo para que se haga justicia con rendición de cuentas. Ese proceso, junto con nuestras oraciones, compasión y solidaridad es lo que se merecen quienes han sido objeto del abuso. Tal como lo dijo el cardenal Sean O’Malley, «Las palabras no bastan». Nuestras palabras deben ir acompañadas de acción. 

El papa Francisco ha dado el importante paso de aceptar la dimisión de McCarrick del colegio cardenalicio y ha dispuesto para él una vida de oración y penitencia. Sin embargo, también es importante que la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de EE. UU. revise su actual estatuto de protección de niños y jóvenes contra abusos del clero, o Estatuto de Dallas. El estatuto debe garantizar procedimientos y prácticas que impongan un mismo nivel de rendición de cuentas para el clero, los empleados, los voluntarios y los obispos. Soy uno de los obispos con conocimiento de la ley que gobierna los asuntos de la Iglesia, y como tal apoyo esta iniciativa. 

Somos una Iglesia de misericordia y, como el papa Francisco constantemente nos lo recuerda, "todos somos pecadores". Pero si bien el perdón es parte esencial del Evangelio, siempre ha de practicarse en conjunción con la virtud de la justicia. La misericordia no disminuye la importancia de la rendición de cuentas, del arrepentimiento y de la restauración del equilibrio de la justicia. Debemos esforzarnos para seguir el difícil camino hacia el discipulado al que Jesús nos ha llamado.

En respuesta al horrible escándalo de abusos cometidos por miembros del clero que estalló en el año 2002, la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de EE. UU. tomó medidas para lograr que nuestras parroquias y ministerios sean lugares donde los niños, los adultos vulnerables y todos los que más lo necesitan estén protegidos contra el abuso sexual y las conductas predatorias. Ese compromiso requiere de vigilancia continua y nunca debemos descansarnos en lo logrado. Aprovecho la oportunidad que me presentan estas tristes revelaciones para recordarle a cualquier persona que haya sido objeto de abuso en la Diócesis de Tucson, que dé el primer paso contactando a las autoridades del orden público, y luego a la Oficina diocesana de protección de niños, adolescentes y adultos llamando al 520-838-2513.  

Pidamos que mediante nuestros esfuerzos, oraciones y renovado compromiso, podamos continuar edificando la Iglesia que amamos, el cuerpo mismo de Cristo.

Obispo Edward J. Weisenburger
Diócesis de Tucson

Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life Concerning the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors

Last March I established the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which had first been announced in December 2013, for the purpose of offering proposals and initiatives meant to improve the norms and procedures for protecting children and vulnerable adults. I then appointed to the Commission a number of highly qualified persons well-known for their work in this field.

At my meeting in July with persons who had suffered sexual abuse by priests, I was deeply moved by their witness to the depth of their sufferings and the strength of their faith. This experience reaffirmed my conviction that everything possible must be done to rid the Church of the scourge of the sexual abuse of minors and to open pathways of reconciliation and healing for those who were abused.

For this reason, last December I added new members to the Commission, in order to represent the Particular Churches throughout the world. In just a few days, all the members will meet in Rome for the first time.

In light of the above, I believe that the Commission can be a new, important and effective means for helping me to encourage and advance the commitment of the Church at every level – Episcopal Conferences, Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and others – to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the protection of minors and vulnerable adults, and to respond to their needs with fairness and mercy.

Families need to know that the Church is making every effort to protect their children. They should also know that they have every right to turn to the Church with full confidence, for it is a safe and secure home. Consequently, priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.

Every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented. This document was issued to assist Episcopal Conferences in drawing up guidelines for handling cases of sexual abuse of minors by clerics. It is likewise important that Episcopal Conferences establish a practical means for periodically reviewing their norms and verifying that they are being observed.

It is the responsibility of Diocesan Bishops and Major Superiors to ascertain that the safety of minors and vulnerable adults is assured in parishes and other Church institutions. As an expression of the Church’s duty to express the compassion of Jesus towards those who have suffered abuse and towards their families, the various Dioceses, Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life are urged to identify programmes for pastoral care which include provisions for psychological assistance and spiritual care. Pastors and those in charge of religious communities should be available to meet with victims and their loved ones; such meetings are valuable opportunities for listening to those have greatly suffered and for asking their forgiveness.

For all of these reasons, I now ask for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors. The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programmes of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse.

May the Lord Jesus instil in each of us, as ministers of the Church, the same love and affection for the little ones which characterized his own presence among us, and which in turn enjoins on us a particular responsibility for the welfare of children and vulnerable adults. May Mary Most Holy, Mother of tenderness and mercy, help us to carry out, generously and thoroughly, our duty to humbly acknowledge and repair past injustices and to remain ever faithful in the work of protecting those closest to the heart of Jesus.

From the Vatican, 2 February 2015 Feast of the Presentation of the Lord



Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Representatives of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of African and Madagascar

Dear Brother Bishops,

I am pleased to meet with you, the representatives of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar, and to encourage your work. SECAM was conceived and developed to be at the service of the local churches in Africa. It seeks to provide a common response to the new challenges facing the continent, allowing the Church to speak with one voice and to witness to her vocation as a sign and instrument of salvation, peace, dialogue and reconciliation. To fulfil this mission, it is important that SECAM remain faithful to its identity as a vibrant experience of communion and of service to the poorest of the poor.

To this end, pastors must remain free from worldly and political concerns, that they continually strengthen the bonds of fraternal communion with the Successor of Peter (through cooperation with the Apostolic Nunciatures), and through easy and direct communication with other Church bodies. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain the simple ecclesial experiences available to all, as well as streamlined pastoral structures. Experience teaches that large bureaucratic structures approach problems in the abstract and risk distancing the Church from people. For this reason, it is important to be concrete: that which is concrete is in touch with reality.

Above all, it is the youth who need your witness: young men and women look to us. In Africa, the future is in the hands of the young, who need to be protected from new and unscrupulous forms of “colonization” such as the pursuit of success, riches, and power at all costs, as well as fundamentalism and the distorted use of religion, in addition to new ideologies which destroy the identity of individuals and of families. The most effective way to overcome the temptation to give in to harmful lifestyles is by investing in education. Education will also help to overcome a widespread mentality of injustice and violence, as well as ethnic divisions. The greatest need is for a model of education which teaches the young to think critically and encourages growth in moral values (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 64). An important component in this educational process is the pastoral care of students: in Catholic or public schools there is a need to unite academic studies with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 132-134).

There are various reasons why we are seeing, also in Africa, a trend towards the breakdown of the family. In response, the Church is called to evaluate and encourage every initiative to strengthen the family, which is the real source of all forms of fraternity and the foundation and primary way of peace (cf. John Paul II, Message for the XXVII World Day of Peace, 1 January 1994). More recently, many priests, men and women religious as well as members of the lay faithful have admirably taken responsibility for the care of families, with a special concern for the elderly, the sick and the handicapped. Even in the most distant and remote regions, your local Churches have proclaimed the Gospel of Life and, following the example of the Good Samaritan, have come to the help of those most in need. A magnificent witness to charity has been given in response to the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has struck many communities, parishes and hospitals. Many African missionaries have generously given their lives by remaining close to those suffering from this disease. This path must be followed with renewed apostolic zeal! As followers of Christ, we cannot fail to be concerned for the welfare of the weakest; we must also draw the attention of society and the civil authorities to their plight.

Dear brothers, I express my appreciation for the invaluable contribution made by so many priests, men and women religious and lay faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel and the social advancement of your people. SECAM is also a means of promoting respect for the law, so as to ensure that the ills of corruption and fatalism may be healed, and to encourage the efforts of Christians in society as a whole, always in view of the common good. The great work of evangelization consists in striving to make the Gospel permeate every aspect of our lives so that we, in turn, can bring it to others. For this reason, it must always be borne in mind that evangelization implies conversion, that is, interior renewal. The process of purification, which is inherent in evangelization, means accepting the call of Christ to “repent and believe the Good News” (cf. Mk 1:15). As a result of this conversion to salvation, not only individuals but the entire ecclesial community is transformed, and becomes an ever greater and more vital expression of faith and of charity.

May the light and the strength of the Holy Spirit sustain your pastoral efforts. May the Virgin Mary protect you and intercede for you and for the entire continent of Africa. To each of you, I give my Apostolic Blessing. Please pray for me.