For those of you who may not have seen earlier briefings, I have prepared this Archbishop’s Leadership Briefing to keep archdiocesan leaders informed of important developments in the Church, especially in light of the Church’s response to sexual abuse. Please feel free to forward this information to others. Parishes can use parish communication vehicles (websites, email, social media, Flocknote) to spread the word.
1) In my November 30 column for The Record, I wrote about the Leadership Briefing and the plea I have heard from so many Catholics for regular communication about the topic of sexual abuse in the Church. If you did not see it, read it here.
2) Last week’s question and answer about the penalty of prayer and penance for some credibly accused priests brought a helpful comment from one of the readers, who expressed the concern that all credibly accused priests should go to prison. I responded directly to the inquirer, but thought it might be helpful to share my response here. Good and constructive questions and comments help us to communicate more clearly.
Question: You wrote last week about priests who have received the penalty of prayer and penance. Why don’t all priests with a credible accusation of child abuse go to prison?
Answer: The penalty of prayer and penance does not preclude arrest and imprisonment. In fact, in all cases, the Archdiocese reports accusations of child abuse to the police. At this time, there are two priests who have been directed to lead a life of prayer and penance. One of these priests was arrested and prosecuted and served a prison sentence. In the other case, the priest was not prosecuted, but the Archdiocese followed its policies by removing this priest from ministry. The Holy See directed him to lead a life of prayer and penance because of infirmity at the time the accusations against him were substantiated by our Archdiocese of Louisville Sexual Abuse Review Board. Over the past 15 years, seven other priests were convicted and received a variety of sentences. Offenders may not be prosecuted for many reasons, including statute of limitations, the nature of the offense, the date the offense occurred and the laws on the book at the time, etc.
3) I am very proud of the safe environment training for employees and adult volunteers. Since 2002, we have trained 48,000 individuals. Many of you may have attended one of these sessions because of your service in parishes, but if you have not, I encourage you to attend a training session. In addition to being informative and compelling, this training has resulted in families who have suffered abuse getting help with issues they are facing. For a list of training dates, see here.