St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish is holding a listening session on December 9th at 6:00pm in response to the publication of the names of priests credibly accused of abusing minors and vulnerable adults.

To report abuse, contact the Office of Victim Assistance: 1-800-680-5040 or visit the diocesan website: https://syracusediocese.org/safe-environment/victim-assistance.  If you have a concern about the list, call the Diocese Office at 315-422-7203.

This news has reopened a wound that we had hoped had begun to heal since the 2002 revelations of past clergy sexual abuse and the mishandling of those cases.  There is not a single reaction to the news – anger, distrust, shame, embarrassment, and questions all rise in our hearts.  While we may have turned to family and friends to discuss the implications of this news, it may be helpful for our parish family to gather as well.  Even if we are still processing the news and managing the range of emotions, there is value in sharing the burden.

Our sharing also includes prayer for the victims of sexual abuse who have had the courage to tell and retell their stories. It is through their stories that we begin to understand the devastation of this issue and truly begin to examine failures in handling this issue decades ago.

Since the crisis first broke with the stories of clergy sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was implemented in dioceses across the country. In the Charter, it was mandated that a set of policies and procedures must be implemented in every diocese in the United States to protect children and hold people accountable for their abusive behavior.  You can find the policy of the Diocese of Syracuse online: https://syracusediocese.org/safe-environment/diocesan-child-and-youth-protection-policy/

Here a few key points in the policy:

  • All clergy, religious, employees and volunteers whose ministry puts them in direct contact with children, participate in a safe environment training and receive a criminal background check every five years. Over 41,000 have been trained to date.
  • The Diocese has a Memorandum of Understanding with the local district attorneys and reports all allegations of past and current abuse to their office first. The DA then informs the diocese when it can begin its canonical (Church law) process. The Memorandum of Understanding was reviewed and again signed in 2018. (Also on the website)
  • A Diocesan Review Board, which includes a lay expert in child sexual abuse, a retired detective, a licensed social worker, and former Navy intelligence officer, exists to review any past complaints of abuse and make recommendations to the Bishop of their credibility. If a priest is found to have a credible complaint, he is removed from ministry and can no longer serve as a priest.  Members are listed on our diocesan website.

This road has not been smooth, but it is road we must continue to travel to keep our children safe.  While we still have work ahead of us, significant improvements have been made. Together, we must keep informed and remain steadfast in our commitment to never ever allow this to happen again in our church’s history.