This past Sunday was Blue Sunday, a national day of prayer for victims of sexual abuse and those who rescued them. How fitting that many of the faithful gathered with me for the celebration of the Eucharist at our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. As I noted in my homily on Sunday, sexual abuse is a grave evil and a crime. It has left an indelible mark on the faith lives of so many throughout the Church and within our own diocese. It has weakened and, in some cases, irreparably severed the unity that Jesus desires for all of us. Gathered at the Lord’s Table, we prayed for healing, reconciliation and unity.
Blue Sunday reminds us of our responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse. While we cannot undo the painful history, we can ensure that our diocesan response to child abuse is comprehensive, far-reaching, and permanent, today and into the future. Every one of us can play a part in promoting the well-being of our children, who are gifts entrusted to us by God. All of us must do our part to protect the life and dignity of our children at home, at school, and at church in an effort to end neglect and abuse of our innocent youth.
While numbers tell only part of the story, I want to share some statistics that attest to our ongoing efforts to protect God’s children and youth:
• Since 2003, over 40,000 people throughout our diocese have been background checked and have attended Safe Environment Training through the Virtus Safe Environment training program. This program identifies best practices designed to help prevent “wrongdoing” and promote “right doing” within religious organizations.
• During the last school year, over 16,000 Catholic School and parish Faith Formation students received age-appropriate Safe Environment training.
Sexual abuse of minors is a pervasive societal problem. The concerted and sustained efforts of adults in every segment of society are needed to protect children and youth. Every adult working with children must remain vigilant at all times. It is vitally important that we are constantly on guard and conscientiously observe the behaviors of those who interact with children. Any concern should be communicated to the appropriate parties. Sometimes this involves communicating our safety concerns to our children. In addition, sometimes it requires communicating our concerns about seemingly inappropriate behavior to those who are in a position to intervene.
I assure you that I and all who work with me are committed to the protection of children and young people to the best of our ability. We will continue to take steps to create safe environments to prevent child abuse and to bring the healing ministry of Jesus to the victims of abuse.
Please join me in prayer for victims of abuse and their families and all who have suffered because of the failure and sinfulness of some members of the Church. While we admit our guilt before God for the sins of the past, we are ever mindful that the Lord is kind and compassionate, patient and abounding in mercy. We pray that His grace will touch the hearts of victims with His healing love. We pray also that the terrible scourge of sexual abuse will be removed not only from the Church but also from all society.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.