Wednesday, June 12
by Bishop Wilton Gregory
This meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is unprecedented in our history. For the first time, Bishops of the Church are meeting to vote on a nationwide mandatory policy to address the issue of the sexual abuse of children.
It is not my intention today, as the President of the Conference to pronounce on any specific aspect of the working document which was released by the Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse on June 4th. The Committee's work, under the leadership of Archbishop Flynn, will form the basis for the discussion. My role will be to moderate what promises to be a series of lively discussions and debates over the next two days. Bishops have been exposed to many thoughtful suggestions and have been preparing for this gathering by meeting within their Dioceses with priests, laity, including victim/survivors.
Bishops met in regional groups throughout the country. The Bishops' National Advisory Council which is made up of Bishops, priests and mostly laity held an extraordinary one-day session to comment on the Ad Hoc Committee's work. Last week a group of Christian leaders were asked to give their input into a matter that afflicts all our communities.
This afternoon I thought I would share with you how we are dealing with this profoundly important matter and set out for you the goals we have for this meeting of Bishops.
Our goals are:
To protect all our children in all environments so that parents may be as confident as humanly possible in the participation of their children in their parish, school or in any interaction with priests or others in the Catholic Church.
To promote healing and reconciliation of victims and their families. To reach out to those whose lives have been devastated by their experiences and whose faith has been shaken, and in some cases, destroyed.
We need to close the divide that has been created between those victims and their families and the Bishops.
To restore trust that Catholics have historically had in their priests by ensuring that all priests are worthy of that trust.
To ensure that we Bishops act responsibly with regard to allegations and cases of sexual abuse – in all cases. To work in a transparent way and to bring accountability to our actions in implementing our national policy consistently in every Diocese across the country.
With regard to the specific agenda items we will be following:
Tomorrow morning I will open with an address to all Bishops. We will then hear the voices of two lay people deeply concerned about the impact of the current crisis on the Church of which we are all a part. Following that, three victim/survivors will appear before the Bishops and share their unique point of view.
We will also hear from a professional on the treatment of adult survivors of sexual abuse.
Then following lunch, and perhaps in the evening as well, we will have an executive session, as we usually do at our meetings. This time these sessions are especially important since this is the first time all the Bishops have been together since this crisis began. Then, the Executive Session will meet again in the evening to continue the discussion.
So Friday morning we expect to reconvene in open session to debate and vote on our draft documents. Saturday morning is the Bishops' morning of prayer.
With regard to media opportunities over the next several days, there will be many – both with me and with many Bishops from your Dioceses.
A media briefing will also be conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee on their recommendations at 6:30 this evening. At 8 pm there will be a media briefing on Canon Law.
Tomorrow afternoon there will be a series of briefings on aspects of sexual abuse, and the Church's response.
So I am looking forward to getting down to work with my fellow Bishops and I pray that we will be successful.
Now I would be pleased to take any questions you may have.