By Bishop Raphael M. Fliss It saddens me to hear of the suit brought against the Catholic bishops by Jeff Anderson and some members of the O'Connell family. While I am certain their motives are sincere, I believe these actions will only prolong their pain and anger and will hinder our efforts to move forward in providing safe environments for our children and youth.
The time and money that will be spent on this lawsuit will only hurt the positive progress we have made and will once again draw attention to something that has happened in the past that we cannot change. We cannot undo the tragedies of the past but we can work toward making our church and society safe for our children.
Our good, hard-working priests, parish catechetical leaders, catechists, diocesan staff and so many others have been working diligently for four years to address the issue of sexual abuse, not only in the church, but in society as a whole. My staff has spent an enormous amount of time and energy developing new programs and improving existing ones, all aimed at increasing an awareness of the problem of sexual abuse. I am proud of what has been accomplished but know much is left to be done.
Some of the important accomplishments of the past four years include mandatory background checks for all priests and deacons serving in the diocese. In addition, the Diocese of Superior requires that all employees and volunteers who work in a regular, ongoing capacity with minors sign a code of conduct form and complete a background screening before beginning service with the diocese. Moreover, all are required to complete safe environment training sessions that include information regarding issues of recognition and prevention of sexual abuse.
Other ways in which the diocese has worked to increase awareness of the issue of sexual abuse and provide resources for educating parents and youth are:
* Formed a review board to advise the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors
* Appointed a coordinator of assistance to provide for the immediate pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused by anyone representing the church
* Published a revised morals and ethics policy (in place since 1988 and revised on 8/1/2006) that incorporates the directives of the Norms set forth in the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
* Provides periodic outreach announcements for those abused by anyone working for the church in parish Sunday bulletins and the Catholic Herald
* Developed a program entitled, Creating Safe and Sacred Places for Children and Youth, that includes a curriculum for training children and youth on issues of sexual abuse that is faith-based, age-appropriate and ongoing
* Provides periodic workshops and training sessions for priests, deacons, Catholic school principals and catechetical leaders to discuss safe environment issues
* During the month of August 2006, the diocese will be providing pastors, principals of Catholic schools and catechetical leaders with a parent resource guide to share with parents, especially those who do not wish to have their children instructed in safe environment issues in the parish
* During the month of August 2006, the diocese will be providing pastors, principals of Catholic schools and catechetical leaders with a training manual for training catechists, parents and other adults about issues of sexual abuse of minors.
The Diocese of Superior takes very seriously the title of the bishops' document, "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People: Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal." We promise to do everything in our power to protect our young people and we pledge to provide healing where anyone has been hurt by a member of our church. Superior Catholic Herald