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Bishop Speaks Out on Church's Failures

June 14, 2002

Excerpts from an address delivered in Dallas on Thursday by Bishop Wilton D. Gregory at the United States Conference of Bishops, apologizing for the church's handling of its priestly abuse scandal.

"The crisis, in truth, is about a profound loss of confidence by the faithful in our leadership.... [That is] because of our failures in addressing the crime of the sexual abuse of children and young people by priests and church personnel.

"We did not go far enough to ensure that every child and minor was safe from sexual abuse. Rightfully, the faithful are questioning why we failed to take the necessary steps.

"We are the ones, whether through ignorance or lack of vigilance, or--God forbid--with knowledge, who allowed priest abusers to remain in ministry and reassigned them to communities where they continued to abuse.

"We are the ones who chose not to report the criminal actions of priests to the authorities, because the law did not require this. We are the ones who worried more about the possibility of scandal than in bringing about the kind of openness that helps prevent abuse.

"And we are the ones who, at times, responded to victims and their families as adversaries and not as suffering members of the church.

"If we bishops have learned anything, it is how devastating are the effects of sexual abuse on the children and young people who suffer it. Even the passage of many years does not wipe away the memory of these terrible crimes. And so often, beyond the wounds inflicted on the memory, a person's whole personality also shows the results of these violations of innocence. Those of us who have not experienced sexual abuse in our childhood can never fully understand what it has done to you.

"But I promise you this: We bishops will make every effort to take on your perspective, to see the world and the church through your eyes, and to look at our own actions over the last decade from your point of view."

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