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Protecting our children

One can never apologize enough. The evils inflicted on body, mind, emotions, and most of all the souls of those abused by clergy are long-lasting and horrendous. So again, I say to anyone so abused, my deepest apologies.

The Catholic Church in the United States has learned a great deal about how to help create and preserve a safe environment for our young people. Perhaps our parishes are now the safest places for them to be. There are annual audits (some on-site and some by documentation) that remind us to continue to enhance this care of our youth. It is probably fair to say that our good work in this area can be of benefit to many others in society who have not yet created such an environment. Our diocesan policies can be found on the diocesan Web site (www.dioceseoflansing.org).

Our diocese, like the rest of the country, continues to provide support for counseling for victims of clerical abuse. We continue to have a hot-line to report incidents and we encourage victims to contact that number (888.308.6252). We have a Review Board that interviews those who are victims and then advises the diocese on the credibility of the accusations. We continue to report matters to local prosecuters and police. We continue to respect the privacy of those victims who do not want their pain made public. We continue to have retreats at our retreat house for those abused. None of this will ever undo what was done. None of this will suddenly heal the wounds.

None of this will atone for our sins and mistakes. We do all this because it is the right thing to do. And we manage to do this within the limited means of the diocese.

Recently, there has been a spate of articles about similar situations in Ireland, Austria, Italy, Germany and other countries. They are experiencing what we have already gone through. We have offered our sister churches the benefit of our experience. It is probable that the special norms for handling these cases in the United States, which the Holy See approved back in 2002, may become norms for the whole church. That would be a good thing.

Some may accuse the media of fomenting all of this. While there may be cases of the media misrepresenting some situations, in all honesty, it is hard to believe that we in the church would have addressed this matter as seriously as we have except at the prodding of the media. So, they deserve our gratitude for bringing these evils and this sinfulness and these crimes into the light.

Certainly, there have been cases where some are trying to tie these matters to Pope Benedict. This is an unbelievable reach against a man who has worked very hard to address these abuses. Others have responded to such press reports with documentation that demonstrates that the original accusations against the Holy Father are clearly misreadings of the facts. He needs our prayerful support.

One of the most difficult aspects of the entire abuse crisis is that the very many wonderful and good priests feel tainted. We are in the midst of the Year for Priests, a time to pray for the deeper conversion of our priests and to encourage them in their ministry. We in this great Diocese of Lansing are blessed with very fine priests and a tremendous group of seminarians. Please pray for them and love them. They only want to give their lives praying for you and loving you as well.