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Bishop Asks For Healing During Deanery Prayer Services

By Special To The Message
Bishop Joseph M. Siegel

Bishop Joseph M. Siegel recently concluded a series of Prayer Services for Healing and Reparation in response to the current clergy abuse crisis in the Church both in the United States and across the world.  The bishop held services and listening sessions in each of the Diocese of Evansville’s four deaneries. Below is a summary of his comments at the prayers services. 

In his homily, the bishop asked for prayers – first and foremost for healing for the victims of clergy sexual abuse and for their families.  He said we can only try to imagine the pain the victims endured and continue to endure from these attacks, whether they occurred recently or decades ago, knowing that scars of these attacks remain with a person throughout their lives. As the Bishop of the diocese, he offered his deepest apology to all victims for the terrible offences committed against them, as well as for the way some bishops and other Church leaders mishandled these allegations when brought before them, especially when they failed to treat victims with the care, respect and justice they needed and deserved. 

He also asked for prayers for the healing of the body of the Church, noting that the accounts of abuse, betrayal and cover up have struck a terrible blow to the heart of our family of faith. This scandal has undermined the credibility of the Church and crippled our ability to fulfill the mission Christ gave us to evangelize. He recognized that the Catholic faithful have understandably been deeply hurt by these revelations and have justifiably responded with anger and a demand for answers. He expressed his own frustration and pain that the Church he loves is suffering, realizing that some may find in these disturbing reports a reason to stop practicing their Catholic faith. He added that we must seek the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit to focus this anger into efforts to make the necessary reforms with wisdom and courage. 

As the Church seeks to support victims and their families in their process of healing, the Bishop asked also for prayers for the grace to help heal the damage done to the family of the Church. In this regard, he noted the work of 2002 Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young People, which has helped our diocese to address this terrible problem through its mandates requiring a zero-tolerance policy toward those who abuse; safe environment training and background checks for those who work with youth; a largely lay diocesan review board; prompt reporting of allegations to civil authorities; and a victim assistance coordinator to be a liaison between victims and the diocese. He reiterated that these provisions will be strictly enforcement in the diocese. He also reported that in consultation with our Diocesan Review Board, the diocese is also doing a thorough review of all clergy files and will publish a list of those clergy who have credible and substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.   

In regard to the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick, the Bishop stated that United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is initiating a thorough investigation utilizing lay experts to review files in the four dioceses where the Archbishop served.  He added that the Vatican will also be reviewing the files of the various congregations that would have dealt with the allegations over the years.  

Concerning the conduct of American bishops, he mentioned that several protocols are being proposed by the USCCB to hold bishops accountable for sexual misconduct with youth and adults or for negligence in dealing with allegations of abuse, including a third-party reporting system by which people can confidentially report bishops.  He added that the Conference will be advocating with the Holy See for more effective and timely resolution of allegations against bishops.  He expressed the conviction that when the bishops meet in November to discuss and vote on these protocols, they will act decisively to ensure that bishops are covered by the  reporting and accountability standards set forth by the 2002 Charter mandates. He also mentioned that the Pope has called a meeting in February with the heads of episcopal conferences from around the world to discuss the issues of clergy sexual abuse and how bishops are to address it in a global way. 

The Bishop noted that, while we are resolved to do everything possible to protect children and young people, as well as insist on accountability for bishops and all in Church leadership, ultimately we must look to Jesus to find the grace and help necessary to set the Church on the path of purification, healing and renewal. In that spirit, the Bishop invited all Catholics to join him in an intense effort of prayer, abstinence, fasting and other acts of penance for healing and reparation. He encouraged everyone to look to the Eucharist, the sacrament of reconciliation, personal prayer and devotions for the strength and help needed to persevere in these painful times, keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and living our lives and vocations with fidelity and integrity. 

The Bishop recognized the tremendous faith of the people of the diocese and the wonderful work that is done by our priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful in our parishes, schools, institutions and organizations, stating that these efforts will continue as we seek a way forward through this time of crisis. He mentioned that he offers Mass each day for the diocese.  He asked for prayers for our priests who faithfully serve their people and for him that he might be a wise and faithful shepherd of this local Church. He concluded his homily with a Prayer for Healing of Victims of Abuse.