A Message from Bishop Cunningham to the People of the Diocese of Syracuse

   Earlier this morning I wrote to the clergy, religious and lay employees of the diocese. I would like to share the same information with all of you.

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   Today there is a very difficult article in the Syracuse Newspapers regarding Charles Eckermann, the Syracuse Police Department and the diocese. In my time here as your Bishop, there has been talk and rumors and speculation about this situation. At no time before these recent months has there been a reliable disclosure that provides an account of what took place thirty years ago.

   I am grateful for the information that has surfaced. Although the news is painful and sorrowful for all of us to hear, it is important to learn so that this type of situation never happens again.

   I am also grateful to Kevin Braney for having the courage to come forward and share his story of abuse. Without that, the diocese could not have acted and followed the process of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

I have been reflecting on this situation since I learned details from John Falge and Tom Murphy. Thirty years ago, decisions were made with a different lens than they are today. Although I cannot speak to the decisions that were made in the past, I believe they were never malicious in intent. They were made in the context of the times. I do not offer this defensively but simply as a point of reflection.

  Together we cannot change the past but we must learn from it. These are difficult days and will be as we move forward but join me in finding hope that we are on the right path. Thirty years ago people did not feel they could come forward with concerns. Now, through our safe environment training, we know that we all play a role in the safety of children and must not turn a blind eye to inappropriate behavior. We must remain vigilant in our efforts.

   Lastly, I have been informed that there will be another article tomorrow regarding the issue of releasing the names of clergy who have been removed in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It has been the practice of the diocese to only confirm the names of those accused once it is made known by the individual who brought forth the allegation. The reason for this is to uphold the privacy of the individuals involved. Although some have asked that the names of those they accuse become public, others have asked that they never become public. It has been a difficult balance to maintain. I have been and will continue to pray and reflect upon any changes in our current practice. It is worth noting again that there is no priest or deacon in active ministry in the Diocese of Syracuse who has a credible allegation of abuse of a minor.

   If you have any concerns regarding this situation or any issues related to child sexual abuse, please contact Jacqueline Bressette, Victim Assistance/Safe Environment Coordinator at (315) 470-1465.

   As I stated above, I know these are challenging times for all of us. I am sorry that individuals have been harmed by members of our Church and pledge to you my personal commitment to ensure that our children are safe and protected. Be assured of my gratitude and prayers and may I ask that you pray for all those who are affected by child sexual abuse.

   During this season of Advent, may the Lord fill your hearts and your homes with renewed hope, as we wait for the peace that only Christ can give at Christmas.

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