In response to survivors, archbishop lists next steps

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz listed three “next steps” for the Archdiocese of Louisville Sept. 10 after survivors of clergy sexual abuse and their supporters issued a list of 16 steps the archdiocese ought to take.

Members of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, issued the steps in a press release and presented them publicly on the sidewalk in front of the Cathedral of the Assumption on the morning of Sept. 10.

Archbishop Kurtz’s statement, released a few hours later, acknowledged the press release from SNAP and said that he has heard from Catholics “with many concerns and suggestions.”

“Catholics are angry, confused and in pain, and I hurt with them,” he said in the statement. “My heart especially goes out to victim survivors. I have received letters from those who have been abused many years ago by a priest or representative of the church. Their wounds are deep, and the recent reports have opened these wounds once again. Their pain must move our hearts to solidarity and repentance. No child should ever be subjected to abuse, particularly by someone who is responsible for nurturing a child’s faith.”

He goes on to note actions suggested by SNAP and by others who have contacted him.

“Some of them involve measures already in place, others require action on a broader scale, and a number of suggestions are good to consider for the future,” he said.

He described three next steps for the near future:

First, he said, is an administrative meeting in Washington, D.C., with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has since happened.

The conference president has proposed a three-point plan that includes an investigation into questions related to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who is accused of abusing minors and adult seminarians. The plan also proposes “to provide clear paths to report misconduct or abuse by bishops, and to advocate and work for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops,” the archbishop noted in the statement.

“I support this plan and look forward to working with the bishops on a strong recommendation to our Holy Father,” the archbishop added in the statement.

Second, the archbishop said the Archdiocese of Louisville plans to publish a report in October “to the Catholic people about sexual abuse and how it has been handled in our Archdiocese.”

Finally, the archbishop said he is “inviting Catholics to join me in a day of prayer and fasting on Friday, October 5. Individuals will be encouraged to observe this in their homes and parishes. I also will preside at a public prayer service that evening at Holy Family Church.”

The prayer service will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 5.

The press release from SNAP summarized the background of the clergy sexual abuse crisis and stated, “Now is the time for leadership … not compliance. Now is the time for transparency … not secrecy. Now is the time for accountability … not dodging the issue.”

It introduced a list of recommended steps by saying, “Here are 16 steps you can immediately take to implement your own words, ‘we must renew and strengthen efforts to reach out to victims, promptly communicate with law enforcement, remove offenders and foster a safe environment for children, youth, and adults in our Church.’ ”

The quotation comes from an Aug. 15 statement issued by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in response to a grand jury report describing a pattern of abuse and subsequent cover-ups by bishops in six Pennsylvania dioceses. The 1,400-page report, issued Aug. 14, stemmed from an examination of those dioceses’ files dating back 70 years. It showed abuse by more than 300 priests and more than 1,000 child victims.

SNAP’s 16 steps touch on a variety of issues.

Some ask for accountability, urging the archbishop to hold employees or priests who knew of abuse accountable.

Others aim to assure and urge care for victims/survivors, such as a step that asks the archdiocese to establish support groups for them.

The steps also call for information, including a list of priests with credible accusations, disclosures related to settlements and information about what the diocese means specifically by “a life of prayer and penance” for a priest who has been removed from ministry.

The steps also call for education initiatives, from a speakers forum at Bellarmine University to inviting victims/survivors to speak to seminarians and new priests about “the devastation caused by the sexual abuse by a priest.”

The final step asks the archbishop to “commission a statue to be placed in a prominent location that commemorates the victims/survivors of sexual abuse” in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

In the Archdiocese of Louisville, anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse or has information about sexual abuse is encouraged to contact Martine Siegel, the victim assistance coordinator for the archdiocese. She can be reached at 636-1044 or victimassistance@archlou.org.

To report abuse to civil authorities, call the child protection services or the local police in your county. Visit www.archlou.org/report for a list of these agencies by county. The statewide child abuse hotline is 1-877-KYSAFE1 or 1-877-597-2331.

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