We are listening: Responses to comments from the Promise page

Mark Haas

On Sept. 7, the Archdiocese of Denver launched archden.org/promise as an online resource for information about how we handle allegations of sexual abuse of minors and other misconduct here in the archdiocese. We included a ‘comments’ section because we want to hear from you, and we have done our best to respond to every message we’ve received. We know that even criticism comes out of a shared love for our Church. We truly value this conversation and wanted to share some of the feedback we’ve received. These comments are representative of several common inquires we received.

Please continue to send us comments through the Promise page, and we will continue the conversation.

Daniel: There is no room in our Church for this abuse. When someone is accused, it must be investigated immediately. When it is found to be a true accusation, they must be prosecuted. If you know about abuse, turn in the guilty parties at once.

We agree with everything in this statement; in fact, everything suggested in this comment has actually been the policy in the Archdiocese of Denver since 1991. Today, we have 14,000 mandatory reporters, and by law, they are required to report suspected abuse to the police. We will then cooperate fully with an investigation. Any notion that we are complicit in allowing the sexual abuse of minors is a misperception we hope the ‘Promise’ website will help to address.

John: The letter announcing this website starts out blaming “others” (the media, the usual suspects outside our Church, etc.) but where the blame lies is obvious, and will not be found on this website.

I would hope that you take the time to really go through the website, because I think you will find that we are taking responsibility for the sins committed. We are also committing ourselves to being part of the recovery and working diligently to prevent future issues. What the letter pointed out was that there is a lot of misinformation out there about the current conditions in the Church. We are confident that we are not currently experiencing a “crisis” here in Colorado, but what we’ve seen happen is that coverage of events that happened decades ago can be misrepresented or misunderstood as things still happening today. We feel we need to both address the past, and also clearly present information on how we are different today, so our parishioners can have faith in their local Churches.

Michael: While I’m relieved to see the protection of our children, what protections have been established for seminarians?

First, if seminarians feel that they are the victim of a crime, they are encouraged to report it to police. Seminarians are also told they can report concerns to the Seminary Rector, Vocations Director, Vicar for Clergy, Victim Assistance Coordinator, another trusted professor or administrator, or an official from a neighboring diocese. There are multiple reporting channels available to make sure the seminarian has a means he feels comfortable with. Beyond that, our Code of Conduct applies to all employees of the seminary, meaning they are held to the same standards as the rest of the archdiocese, and are surrounded by other mandatory reporters.

Angela: I believe it is time for our church to allow priests to marry. It would certainly weed out a lot of problems if priests were not so lonesome.

There is a long and detailed theological explanation we could provide on the Church’s teachings on celibacy, but from a strictly analytical and psychological perspective, research from the 2010 John Jay College “Causes and Context” report found that there is no link between celibacy and the sexual abuse of minors. It may be helpful to consider that from 1950-2017, over 90 percent of the allegations of sexual abuse of minors were of incidents that occurred before 1990, meaning we’ve seen a huge decline over the last 30 years with no change in regard to priestly celibacy. So, what has changed? Better seminary screening processes, better formation and preparation for a life of celibacy, better reporting policies and an overall better understanding of the wider societal issue.

Dave: How about having the parishes say the Prayer to St. Michael following each mass? In these trying times, praying to St. Michael would seem to be very worthwhile and beneficial to many people who might be wavering in their commitment to the faith.

This would be something you could suggest to your priest, and we have heard of some of our churches that have started doing this. In general, Archbishop Aquila likes to leave decisions like this up to each pastor.

Jeannie & Jerry: We are grateful to all the good priests, deacons, seminarians, and religious in our lives. Catholic priests are GOOD men of God, and while it is wrong that a few have committed grave and evil acts, the majority of Catholic priests are and will always remain faithful men of God, lead us as Our Good Shepherds, and continue to grow through their own vocations, to enhance the beauty of the Catholic Faith.

Amen. We couldn’t agree more.

COMING UP: A Solemn Promise: Archbishop Aquila launches comprehensive webpage to speak to the people of northern Colorado

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