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Protection of the Vulnerable

 

Index of Topics Below

  • Introduction and Contact Form
  • The Pastoral Response Committee: How we responded to the Crisis. 
  • Videos from our priests (Coming soon.)
  • Policy for Youth Protection in the Diocese of Toledo
  • External Resources
  • "Letter to a Suffering Church" by Bishop Barron. 

 

Introduction

One of the ugliest realities of our fallen world and or our current society is the reality of sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse against children and vulnerable adults in its various forms, and the Catholic Church has been far from immune to this terrible reality. We are all aware of the terrible and manifold accounts of clerical and non-clerical abuse of children in the past decades. Although the Church has made great strides in eliminating the possibility of such things occurring in its institutions, it can never be completely eliminated. The events leading to the arrest of our former pastor prove that. While there is no evidence or accusation of abuse having been committed against members of our parish (and we continue to encourage anyone who may have an allegation to be made to report it), the wounds inflicted by the apparent actions of our former pastor continue to run deep for some of us. We, as a parish, wish to do all we can to...

  • aid you in the healing process
  • to answer any questions you may have about child safety at the parish or other concerns surrounding this situation
  • to provide resources to aid you in processing these events. 

One of the immediate responses to the events of the arrest of our former pastor was the institution of a temporary group to address the needs and concerns of the parish (The Pastoral Response Committee, or PRC). We have developed this page to aid you in these areas. We hope you find answers, reassurance, and even a deepening of faith through the resources and support provided below. And if we can do anything more to help you, please do not hesitate to fill out the form below to contact and/or meet with Fr. Adam, Fr. Peter, or one of our two designated non-priest members of the Pastoral Response Committee, Maile Doyle and David Girardi. 

God bless you and bring you peace, joy, and faith in the love and fidelity of Christ. 

 

(Note: If you wish to report abuse, use this link to the Diocesan page for victim assistance. )

Talk to a Priest or a Designated non-Priest Pastoral Response Member

Note: It is only necessary that you mention the person you would like to contact. However, if you do choose to give your reason, please know that it will be held in confidence by our designated contact person who fields these inquiries.

 
 

Soon after the arrest of our former pastor, a committee was established temporarily to brainstorm ideas and help with the implementation of said ideas to address the needs of our parish in response to this crisis. Below is a quick summary of the actions of this committee. 

 

Listen as Father Adam Hertzfeld and Father Peter Grodi discuss the topic of abuse and what the Catholic Church, and our parish in particular, is doing to combat this reality. 

Video 1 - The Reality of Abuse in our World      Video 2 - Combatting Abuse in the Catholic Church    Video 3 - Combatting Abuse in our Parish

  


 

Answers to Commonly asked questions from our Parishioners in the wake of our Former Pastor's Arrest

Q. Our former pastor presided over many Sacraments including Holy Mass, Baptisms, confirmations, and Anointings of the Sick. Were those Sacraments real? Were they all just fake?

Church doctrine maintains that it is not the worthiness of the ministering priest that makes the Sacraments happen (though, of course, it is surely most desirable) but rather the action of God in response to the words and ritual. We are all sinful persons. Thankfully, God does not rely upon our perfection to do his work in the Sacraments. Be assured that the Sacraments ministered by our former pastor are presumed to be valid. 

Q. Is it believed or is there any evidence that our former pastor committed any acts of abuse against anyone in our parish or school?

Up to this point, we have had no reports of, claims of, evidence of, or reason to assume any abuse happened to anyone in our parish or school. However, we continue to encourage anyone who has information to show otherwise to go to the police. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and we must trust that the truth will always be better than secrets, even if its exposure hurts initially. 

Q. I still feel very hurt and betrayed by the apparent actions of our former pastor. What can I do to 'move on?'

We only feel this particular kind of hurt and anger when it is someone whom we, to a certain degree or another, trusted and/or cared about who has betrayed us. While the anger associated with the injustice done should remain to a certain degree, the anger associated with the hurt done to ourselves must eventually be encouraged to pass. We cannot, in truth, forgive someone for what they did to others. It is not our place to do so. But we are commanded by Christ, who looked down on his betrayers from the pain of the cross, to forgive our enemies and those who persecute us. We must strive to forgive our former pastor for the hurt and betrayal they have imposed on us. While this may seem hard to bear or imagine, it is where the discipleship we claim in Christ contradicts the way of the world (it is where the rubber meets the proverbial road, so to speak). As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." To forgive such injury, we truly must go to God in prayer, ask His help, and let Divine Charity, which we only have through the Grace of God, show us how. And truly, we can begin in no better way than to imitate the words of Christ as he hung upon the Cross: "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do."

Q. What has been done since the revelation and arrest to ensure that such things are guarded against in the future?

In truth, we have quite conscientiously reviewed our procedures, policies, and practices and have found that, for the most part, there is not much to be changed to improve our safety procedures. One must remember that, at this time, there is no evidence that any maleficence of the kind in question was perpetrated by our former pastor with anyone from our parish or school. And unfortunately, there is unfortunately no way to 100% ensure the impossibility of such a thing occurring. However, we are confident in the safety protocols we have in place. One recent change we have made to ensure compliance with the Diocesan policy on the protection of the vulnerable is the review of all doors in the parish and school that offer privacy and the installation of windows in the doors that did not have them before. 

Q. I know people who no longer come to church and cite the events concerning our former pastor as the reason. What can I do to try to mend their relationship with God and the Church?

The first thing to do is to come to be at least somewhat aware of how you, deep down, respond to this question about yourself. Is this still a source of anger for you? Are there lingering questions you want to ask God? Why is it that you decided to stay and keep your faith in Christ and his Church after what has happened? 

Second, you need to be ready and willing to be the advocate for Jesus in their lives. Most people who are hurt and/or betrayed need, first and foremost, someone who will listen to them. What they need first is a person who is willing to ask them about the whole situation (at the proper time and in the proper context) and who will then listen without judgment to what they have to say. Only by listening to a person do we 'earn the right' to be heard in return. 

Whenever we go into a conversation like this, we should (1) have at least done a little research ourselves to better understand to respond to various questions (The short book by Bishop Barron mentioned below is an excellent resource for this.) But most importantly (2) we should ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in our conversation, keep us compassionate and understanding, and help us to say what needs to be said. 

 

(For Commonly Asked Questions related to the wider issue of occasions of Abuse in the Church, see the section "Letter to a suffering Church" near the bottom of this page)


 

The Diocese of Toledo is always striving to better protect those who are most vulnerable, especially those in our parishes who are entrusted to our care in various ways. Our Diocese has a thorough policy concerning the purpose and procedures for the protection of those who are vulnerable; a policy it commands all parishes in the Diocese to obey. This system is in compliance with the entire conference of Catholic Bishops in the united states which continuously evaluates and improves the standard for the protection of the vulnerable in catholic institutions. 

Please click on this link to see the full policy for Youth Protection issued by the Diocese of Toledo. As a parish and school, we strive for full conformity to this policy to ensure protection for youth, vulnerable adults, and all who serve them. Of the many things of note in this document, notice that all adults who are involved with the youth at parish and school events must take training and undergo a background check.

The dictates of this policy can often lead to extra work and no little frustration for some parents and other well-meaning adults who simply want to be involved in small or large ways with parish events. Hopefully, we can all see and agree that such measures are important and well-worth maintaining, and we thank you for the cooperation of the entire parish in helping us maintain our standard of safety. 

 


 

Learn about the wider abuse crisis, pastoral reflection, and other topics. 

 

 


 

In this stirring manifesto, Bishop Robert Barron, founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, explains why this is not the time to leave, but the time to stay and fight. Reading the current crisis through the lenses of Scripture and Church history, Bishop Barron shows that we have faced such egregious scandals before; that the spiritual treasures of the Church were preserved by holy men and women who recommitted themselves to fighting evil; and that there is a clear path forward for us today.

Many in our parish have already found a greater understanding of the crisis, an increase of faith in Christ and His Church, and great comfort in solace in the pages of this text. All are HIGHLY ENCOURAGED to read this book and to give or lend it to others in their life who are in need of it. 

You may acquire a print version of the book at the parish office free of charge or purchase the digital version for a dollar using this link

You may also watch the videos produced by Bishop Barron on this topic and concerning this book using this link

 

FAQS ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE CRISIS (Note: These questions were written and answered 2-3 years ago.)

QUESTION: “Is this still a massive problem today?”

Generally, no. While even a single case of abuse is one too many, by and large, the rate of clerical sexual abuse has dwindled to a trickle since the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (e.g., the “Dallas Charter”) in 2002.

As Bishop Barron writes in Letter to a Suffering Church:

“Numerous careful studies have revealed that instances of clergy sex abuse peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, declining steadily thereafter, and precipitously after 2002, so that now the reporting of new cases is down to a trickle. I wouldn’t dream of denying or underplaying the horrors reported in the Pennsylvania Attorney General report already cited, but I would say that it is regrettable in the extreme that even churchgoing Catholics tended to believe that the terrible instances mentioned in that study were recent cases. In point of fact, of the four hundred or so crimes reported, precisely two occurred after 2002.”

This is why many people, including many non-Catholics, now consider the Catholic Church to be among the safest places for children in the world and a leader in preventing their sexual abuse.

QUESTION: “If the Church let priests marry, would this have happened?”

Marriage is not a solution to the problem of sexual abuse. Countless children have been sexually abused by family members, married and unmarried. In fact, according to a 2010 Newsweek 2 article, rates of sexual abuse among Catholic clergy were similar to those of the male population as a whole. This confirms that celibacy does not markedly increase the incidence of abuse.

All people, even married people, experienced periods of celibacy (e.g., after childbirth or major injury), but those periods do not immediately turn people toward the abuse of children or others.

QUESTION: “If the Church ordained women to the priesthood, wouldn’t that solve the problem?”

Unfortunately, sexual abuse occurs not only among men but also among female religious orders, as well as within public schools, where female teachers are increasingly being arrested and charged with the crime of sexual exploitation of students or others.

The disordered desire to control or wield power over others is not exclusive to males; it is a disorder of the human mind, heart, and soul, rooted in more than biological sex.

QUESTION: “Isn’t this mainly a homosexual problem? If only all same-sex attracted priests were ousted . . .”

There is certainly a homosexual component to most clerical abuse cases. Studies have shown that roughly 80% of clerical sexual abuse occurred between priests and boys or young men.

And a 2005 Vatican document from the Congregation for Catholic Education specifies that “If a candidate [for the priesthood] practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination.”

However, it’s important to distinguish between homosexuality (a chosen behavior) and same-sex attraction (an often undesired predilection). The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism (2357-2359) that same-sex attraction is not, in and of itself, sinful. The Catechism urges respect for all people and dissuades against scapegoating and presuming to know the state of anyone’s soul.

Consider that, for all the terrible stories we hear, we do not hear about the faithful and pastoral priests whose same-sex orientation is known to God alone, and who strive to minister to the Body of Christ while enduring thorns in the side about which none of us may guess

QUESTION: “Is Pope Francis complicit in this? What about the accusations made in Archbishop Vigano’s letter?”

Over the past couple of years, some Church leaders have accused others of covering up, lying about, or facilitating cases of sexual abuse. Without all the relevant facts and supporting evidence, though, it’s nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction.

What these cases demand are thorough, predominantly lay-led investigations into many of these questions. As Bishop Barron says in Letter to a Suffering Church:

“I believe that another essential move if the Church is serious about preventing McCarrick-like situations going forward, is to launch a formal investigation, both on this side of the Atlantic and in Rome, to determine how someone like Theodore McCarrick, whose serious misbehavior was well known, could possibly have risen so high in the government of the Church.” 

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