Statement by Archbishop Brunett (March, 2002)
In recent weeks, we have heard troubling accounts of priest pedophilia in the Archdiocese of Boston and other parts of the country. These situations have given rise to questions and concerns among Catholics here in the Archdiocese of Seattle. These difficult reports have occasioned an opportunity for us to reflect on our own pastoral response to these issues, which we first encountered in our own archdiocese nearly two decades ago.
In a word, my predecessors, Archbishops Raymond G. Hunthausen and Thomas J. Murphy, and I have chosen a course of action built upon pastoral care and compassion, community involvement and professional guidance, cooperation with civil authorities, and prevention education in our efforts to address these difficulties.
Above all else, the first and primary value we promote and protect is the safety and well-being of our children in every parish throughout the archdiocese. Every child has the right to live and learn in a safe, positive and balanced environment. I believe that parishes should model the loving care and example of Christ himself, whose tender love and care of children is the model of how we are to live our lives.
In the mid 1980s, we first faced the tragic problem of sexual abuse in our local church as two cases of priest pedophilia were reported in the Archdiocese of Seattle. At that time, we turned to the professional community for guidance and counsel as we sought ways to address these problems in an open and forthright manner. In cooperation with our community advisors, Archbishop Hunthausen ordered the systematic examination of all personnel files and asked the State Attorney Generalís Office to review them with an eye toward the safety of our children.
Our dialogue with the professional legal and mental health communities produced policies that help ensure the interruption and cessation of the cycle of child abuse. These policies, which flow from Catholic moral and social teaching, provide
1) pastoral care, counseling and compassion for victims of child abuse and are patterned after the loving example of Christ the Divine Physician, who is our source of healing and hope;
2) diligent canonical and legal due process for all concerned parties, including the accused, with special focus on our responsibility to ensure the safety of children;
3) full cooperation with law enforcement agencies and civil authorities, who share our commitment to the well-being of every person living in our communities;
4) strong emphasis upon prevention and education for all who serve the church community.
Our community advisors underscored the importance of providing resources and personnel to assist in our prevention and education efforts as the surest way to create and promote healthy and balanced environments for our children. Therefore, clergy and lay persons working for the archdiocese are required to participate in a professional ethics workshop. Volunteers who work unsupervised with children are not only required to attend professional ethics workshops but are also required to undergo background checks. In addition, every seminarian candidate is required to participate in careful psychological screening and comprehensive spiritual formation and personal development.
As archbishop, I have asked that the policies and procedures in our archdiocese are reviewed periodically by a blue ribbon task force comprised of mental health professionals, legal and canonical advisors, pastors and parents. I am deeply indebted to these fine individuals, who assist us in addressing these challenging issues on an ongoing basis.
I offer to victims of child abuse by clergy or lay ministers and to their families our heartfelt apologies, prayerful support and sincere offer of pastoral care for the sorrow that the damaging actions of the few have caused in their lives.
Finally, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of our priests and others who serve in our communities are outstanding and dedicated individuals who provide selfless and loving ministry to our people throughout the church. Both our priests and the entire Catholic community are deeply pained by the scandal of pedophilia among clergy and lay workers. As archbishop, I ask you to offer our priests your prayerful support and a word of gratitude for their tireless ministry and pastoral presence to the people they are sent to serve.
Please be assured of my ongoing commitment to the safety and well-being of our children, our pastoral presence to all Godís people, and our common commitment to creating and sustaining Christ-centered loving communities where every person is treated with loving care, dignity and respect.