Five things for Catholics to keep in mind regarding the Independent Review

When the three Colorado dioceses entered into an agreement with the Colorado attorney general to conduct an independent review of all files related to the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests, there was a commitment by all of the bishops to get everything out in the open in a spirit of transparency.

This means that horrible details of past sins by priests would be made public. Indeed, parts of the Independent Review are very hard to read and may leave the faithful feeling discouraged, angry, sad or hurt.

No matter what you may feel as you read through the report, there are a few important things we as Catholics need to keep in mind.

1.  It’s appropriate to feel hurt or anger.

While much of this report had already been disclosed, seeing the details from 70 years assembled in one place makes it especially terrible to read. We are certainly appalled, incensed and devastated by the incidents of abuse in the report and this horrible history ­— and no one in the current Church is making any excuses for what happened back then. The pain caused to the innocent can never be forgotten no matter how long ago it occurred in the past.

2. Our hearts are with the survivors.

Our primary concern is for those who were harmed — while no apology is sufficient, we are truly sorry on behalf of the Church and hope that we can assist in the healing process. We hope the independent reparations program will encourage others to come forward for healing.

3. We can always do better and must never get complacent.

We are committed to continuing to improve our response to all allegations — while we know we have made great strides and been able to help many people, nevertheless we will implement the recommendations in the report and we will learn from those who came forward and felt they weren’t treated appropriately.

4. Our culture has changed — thanks to many of you.

We are thankful for the tens of thousands of people who have made the commitment to ensure our children are safe and that the Archdiocese is a community where sexual abuse of minors will not be tolerated. Their work and continuing vigilance is one of the primary reasons that there has not been a substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor by a diocesan priest in 20 years.

5. Support your priests.

We are grateful to our current priests — they have carried the cross for sins they didn’t commit, and humbly served while under the scornful eye of society. It’s important for everyone to know that the report found no substantiated allegations against any of our diocesan priests currently in ministry. Together we will persevere, rebuild trust within our community, and become stronger as we serve and love the Kingdom of God.

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”