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Responding to the Catholic Church Abuse, Misconduct and Accountability Crisis

On November 15, 2018, we held an Evening of Listening and Prayer about the Catholic Church abuse, misconduct and accountability crisis. During this session, we heard from parishioners who gave voice to their justifiable distress and anger on behalf of the innocent victims, the clergy who have been true to their vows and the Catholic faithful in general. We also heard their hopeful desires for the future of the Church. We then prayed together for justice and for healing.

For those unable to attend, we’ve established this webpage to provide information and resources to the extent the parishes within our Diocese are legally able to do so. As information becomes available for distribution, we will provide updates. Please believe that the priests and religious of this parish and the Diocese of Orlando are here to listen, to guide and to help.

Above all, please remember that the foundation of our faith comes not from the actions of fallible humans but from the unwavering love of our infallible God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Together, we ask for God’s strength so that those responsible be brought to swift justice, and those harmed find healing of body, mind and spirit through Christ’s abundant grace.

Yours forever in Christ,

Father John Giel, pastor; Father Raul Caga, associate pastor and Father Benjamin Lehnertz, associate pastor.


UPDATE – June 12 …

US bishops authorize reporting mechanism for episcopal abuse cases – The US bishops voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to authorize a national third-party system for victims confidentially to report cases of abuse by bishops in violation of Vos estis lux mundi. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/us-bishops-authorize-reporting-mechanism-for-episcopal-abuse-cases-89584

UPDATE – May 9 …

Worldwide order to Church from Pope in response to evil of sexual abuseThe May 9, 2019 release of Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio, “Vos estis lux mundi,” (“You are the light of the world”) establishes new procedures for reporting abuse and violence, and ensures that Bishops and Religious Superiors are held accountable for their actions.

According to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “it calls for the establishment of easily accessible reporting systems, clear standards for the pastoral support of victims and their families, timeliness and thoroughness of investigations, whistleblower protection for those making allegations, and active involvement of the laity. It also leaves latitude for national bishops’ conferences, such as the USCCB, to specify still more to account for their local circumstances.” For more information on Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio, the USCCB’s response, and the Diocese of Orlando’s continuing compliance with the guidelines and its established  commitment to safety, justice and healing to protect our vulnerable populations, please go to https://www.orlandodiocese.org/e-scroll/archive/worldwide-order-to-church-from-pope-in-response-to-evil-of-sexual-abuse/

UPDATE – April 11 …

Benedict XVI addresses sex abuse scandal – In an essay published Thursday at CNA, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI offered his thoughts about the sex abuse crisis facing the Church. Benedict reviewed the sexual revolution of the 1960s, and examined its effects on priestly formation and life, before suggesting the Church's proper response. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/benedict-xvi-addresses-sex-abuse-scandal-10941

UPDATE February 25…

Pope Francis: Church will focus on 8 points in 'all-out battle' against abusePope Francis Sunday outlined eight points that the Church will focus on in an “all-out battle” against the sexual abuse of minors to, he said, “turn this evil into an opportunity for purification.”  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-church-will-focus-on-8-points-in-all-out-battle-against-abuse-91237

Cardinal Marx: Transparency is decisive in the credibility of the ChurchCardinal Reinhard Marx said Saturday that administration and transparency will be key to rebuilding the trustworthiness and credibility of the Church after its mishandling of past cases of clerical sexual abuse. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cardinal-marx-transparency-is-decisive-in-the-credibility-of-the-church-82413


UPDATE February 22…

Cardinal Cupich lays out framework for bishops' accountabilityThe Church needs to establish a new rules and standards for the accountability of bishops regarding sex abuse and its mishandling, the Archbishop of Chicago said Friday at the Vatican.  https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cardinal-cupich-lays-out-framework-for-bishops-accountability-82963


UPDATE February 21…

Pope proposes 21 'reflection points' for discussion at abuse summitAt the Vatican summit on sex abuse, Pope Francis outlined 21 "reflection points" for discussion. "The holy people of God look at us and expect from us not simple and obvious condemnations, but to prepare concrete and effective measures," said Pope Francis. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-proposes-21-reflection-points-for-discussion-at-abuse-summit-15376

UPDATE February 19…

[Official Vatican press release regarding Cardinal McCarrick] Holy See: McCarrick dismissed from the clerical state for abuse. The Holy See announces sanctions against former American Cardinal, Theodore Edgar McCarrick, including dismissal from the clerical state. https://www.vaticannews.va/en/vatican-city/news/2019-02/holy-see-mccarrick-dismissed-from-clerical-state-for-abuse.html

US Catholic Women Speak Out Before Vatican Summit: Survey and letters highlight harm of abuse crisis and call for prompt action from bishops. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/us-catholic-women-speak-out-before-vatican-summit#.XGv5pGGAar0.email

Official Vatican Abuse Summit (Feb 21-24) website: http://www.pbc2019.org/home  Includes meeting program, abuse timeline, presenters/presentations, timelines, press releases and links to documents and articles, and more.

Analysis: What can the Vatican sex abuse summit deliver? Canon lawyer Ed Condon previews the three-day event, which starts tomorrow. https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/analysis-what-can-the-vatican-sex-abuse-summit-deliver-69698


UPDATE February 5…

Join Holy Family Parish in praying a Novena for the Abuse Crisis – Accountability, Transparency and Healing, calling upon God to bring healing for the victims and for the Church as a whole.  Beginning February 16 and running through the 24th, we've timed the Novena to coincide with the Pope's Vatican Summit on Abuse, February 21-24.




UPDATE January 18…

Brothers and Sisters, as we anxiously await the outcome of the upcoming Vatican Abuse Summit in Rome (February 21-24), we encourage our parishioners to join us in prayers for concrete and proactive steps that end clerical abuse and misconduct and bring justice and healing to the innocents who have been affected.  To that end, in February we will be establishing a special novena prior to and during the Summit and will post information on our website and Facebook  about how you can participate.

In the meantime, we’ve taken additional steps at Holy Family that demonstrate our continued commitment to maintaining a safe environment; namely, the addition of windows to the priests’ office doors in the administration building and to the confessionals in the church itself.  These windows maintain the privacy of those seeking our counsel and absolution while allowing transparency of our actions. We wholeheartedly embrace these changes and pray that they will bring additional peace of mind of our faithful.

Yours in Christ,

Father John Giel, pastor; Father Raul Caga, associate pastor and Father Benjamin Lehnertz, associate pastor.


In the Words of…

Responses, insights and expressions of sorrow and healing from local, national and international religious clergy of influence.


Recent Milestones

On Aug. 16, the Executive Committee of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference announced the development of a concrete plan to address channels for reporting complaints against bishops and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. Their plan, which relies upon consultation with experts and laity, was released Sept. 19, and will be presented to the full body of bishops in November. http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-152.cfm

On September 12, Pope Francis scheduled a meeting from February 21-24, 2019 with the presidents of the world's bishops' conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men and women religious orders for a Vatican summit on the clerical sex abuse crisis and child protection.

On September 13, a delegation of American Bishops met with Pope Francis in Rome to discuss the abuse crisis in the States and to identify the next steps to addressing it most effectively.

On November 12, the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Baltimore convened. At the request of the Holy See, no concrete actions were to be taken regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis, pending the February meeting of the presidents of the worldwide episcopal conferences.

On January 3, U.S. Bishops receive letter from Pope Francis as they gather for spiritual retreat; Cardinal Daniel DiNardo offers message to Holy Father on behalf of U.S. Bishops.

On January 17, The Vatican sets course for February 21-24 abuse summit. The meeting’s goal is to ensure bishops ‘clearly understand what they need to do to prevent and combat the worldwide problem of the sexual abuse of minors,’ a Vatican statement communicated. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/vatican-sets-course-for-february-abuse-summit#.XEC9gLA3yFY.email


Responding to the Most Commonly-Asked Questions

For more information, please visit these resource links:

Diocese of Orlando:  www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment/english/awareness-and-prevention  or https://www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment/espanol/educacion-y-prevencion/


Q: This is not the first time the Catholic Church has had to deal with a very public abuse scandal. Most notably, a number of high-profile sexual abuse cases came to light around 20 years ago. What measures did the Church initiate to actively try to prevent, and subsequently bring to light and to justice, abuses and cover-ups?

A: Over the last nearly two decades, the Church’s Charter to Protect Children and Young People, declared in 2002 in Dallas, has significantly aided in the reduction of clerical abuse and the increased accountability and transparency regarding accusations and punishment. Referred to as the Dallas Charter, it mandates:

  • A “zero tolerance” policy so that no priest guilty of abuse can ever minister again;
  • Full initial and ongoing cooperation with law enforcement;
  • The decision regarding a clergy member’s guilt or innocence would be made by independent lay professionals from outside the Church, not bishops or other clergy;
  • The names of priests proven guilty would be published;

ALL church employees, including priests and bishops, will be required to undergo background checks, fingerprinting and child safety education, with bi-annual audits by outside forensic experts to hold parish and diocesan leaders accountable.

Though the Dallas Charter certainly has helped, the clergy must pledge to adhere to a more rigorous enforcement of its mandates and additional safeguards and accountability standards from all levels of Church hierarchy, including bishops. See also: https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/09/05/cara-study-indicates-decline-abuse-reports-worst-behind-us



Q: What measures are we using to ensure a safe environment within our parish?

A: The mission of Safe Environment Training and Fingerprinting (https://www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment/) is to prevent abuse of children and vulnerable persons through education and awareness. All church personnel and volunteers ages 15 and older must complete safe environment training in addition to a criminal background check and fingerprint clearance. Other safe environment awareness and prevention information is available on the Diocesan website in both English and Spanish at: https://www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment/english/awareness-and-prevention/ and https://www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment/espanol/educacion-y-prevencion/. These pages also include links to: Florida Statutes, Learning About L.I.F.E., Policies, Safe Environment Coordinators, Standards of Conduct, the Victim Assistance Coordinator and a video.

Q: What measures and programs are in place to address the victims of clerical sexual abuse?

A: Holy Family parish’s victims assistance program follows the guidelines set out by the Diocese of Orlando. The Diocese of Orlando maintains a strong safe environment policy.  The Diocese of Orlando has been proactive since the early 1990’s by carefully checking the backgrounds of clergy, employees and volunteers who wish to minister to our children, youth and vulnerable adults.  The Diocese of Orlando trains Church personnel (clergy, church employees and volunteers) on how to detect the warning signs of abuse, how to prevent abuse and how to maintain appropriate boundaries.  No person, including clergy, who has been determined to have engaged in Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Vulnerable Adult, will be allowed to remain in active ministry.  To report an issue of abuse, please contact: https://www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment/english/victim-assistance-coordinator/

For those in need of counseling, the Catholic Charities of Central Florida (CFLCC) has offered its services to anyone who has concerns that need to be addressed, or anyone in need of additional support. Please contact their Behavioral Health Services Director Catherine Galda (407-408-0280 or cgalda@cflcc.org) or Program Assistant Kyle Osborn (407-969-8534 or kosborn@cflcc.org). You can also learn more on their website: https://cflcc.org/behavioral-health-services/

Q: What programs are in place, if any, to teach children about avoiding or reporting improper behavior by adults, including clergy, teachers and others they might come in contact with while at Holy Family?

A: The Diocese of Orlando participates willingly in an annual audit of safe environment practices and has received audit approval each year since the audits have been offered. Through the Diocese of Orlando, we have several programs that address these issues.

Learning about L.I.F.E. (Love, Infatuation, Friendship, and Exploitation) is designed to help parents talk to their children about relationships, sexuality, chastity, and abuse. The L.I.F.E. sessions are designed to cover these sensitive topics in an engaging, interactive manner, using language and activities that are appropriate to various age groups, from pre-school through high school. See https://www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment/english/learning-about-l-i-f-e/

Additionally, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) outlines several resources on the Child and Youth Protection page on their site: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/resources/index.cfm