Hope in the Lord — Communicating about sexual abuse

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

I wrote to you at the end of November about the clergy sexual abuse crisis and the plea I received from many to communicate about what happened in the past, what steps have been taken in recent years and what we are doing now. As I wrote at the time, we built upon the “Report to the Catholic People,” published on October 18, 2018, by creating a briefing newsletter that shares information in a manageable and easy to digest format. (We heard from many that the “Report to the Catholic People” contained great information, but that it was a bit overwhelming to read.)

I have received a great deal of positive feedback from the “Archbishop’s Leadership Briefing.” We send this newsletter out every week to 10 days by email to priests, deacons, agency directors, pastoral leaders, board members, and others, but it is available for all on our web page at www.archlou.org/arch
bishops-leadership-briefings. I encourage everyone who receives it to share it widely and invite you to do so also.

The 10 issues released thus far have covered a wide variety of topics ranging from the role of our victim assistance coordinator and the reach of our safe environment programming to resources such as the November episode of “Conversations with Archbishop Kurtz” that dealt solely with the topic of sexual abuse. (To view, go to the Archdiocese of Louisville’s YouTube Channel.) Other resources have included “Honor Thy Children,” the safe environment newsletter that provides continuing education to those who work with children and youth in our parishes and schools and some national articles that I thought would provide good information.

I have been very pleased with the dialogue that has been created as people read, digest and send additional questions and comments. We try to work the questions — with answers — into subsequent newsletters and add to our FAQs at the www.archlou.org/restoringtrust page of the website. If you have questions, please send them to comm@archlou.org, and we will do our best to provide a response.

The strongest response, however, came from the moving letter written by a survivor about her interactions with the Archdiocese through her healing process. Shannon Age’s letter, which also appeared here in The Record and in The Courier Journal, reflected her courage and journey of faith and ultimately, the positive role that the Church played in this process. If you have not read it, I encourage you to do so. It appeared in Leadership Briefing #8.

Also reported is ongoing work in this area, such as the third party review of our records, which is nearing its end and which will conclude with a report from me and from the reviewer. I shared information about national and international events, including the fall meeting of bishops and the upcoming world meeting of heads of bishops’ conferences that will take place in Rome in February.

Communication about this issue is challenging. Most of these events happened decades in the past, but for victim survivors and for all horrified by the crimes inflicted upon children and youth, it can seem like it is happening right now. I have had several meetings with victim survivors in recent months, and their pain is palpable. I am convinced that the steps the Church is taking now, especially with safe environment efforts, will bring about systemic change for our Church, our families, and our community.

As we continue these important efforts, however, we must redouble our efforts to reach out and seek healing for those traumatized by sexual abuse. 

I also have heard that people are hungering for good news stories, and even amid the challenging revelations of the day, there are many wonderful stories to be told about our local Church. Thus, I encourage all of you to take some time each week to read The Record, where you can learn a lot about the good works of our archdiocese.

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