WASHINGTON (April 23, 2002) -- In a letter to American Catholics, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the bishops are ready to take the necessary measures to protect children and young people in the future and to help heal those hurt by abuse in the past.
Bishop Gregory said the scriptural image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, whose voice is recognized by those in His care, is the ideal that Bishops should live up to in their service to the Church. "But over the last several months, both because of the sexual abuse of children and young people by priests and how this wounding and terrible crime was sometimes dealt with, we are asking ourselves, 'has our voice become the voice of strangers? Do people now no longer recognize our voice?'"
"If we are in danger of this, it is something that, with God's grace, we cannot and will not let happen," Bishop Gregory declared.
"We, your Bishops, believed that we had made considerable progress in dealing with sexual abuse of minors and in creating safe environments for children," the Bishop wrote. "As the details of troubling cases from the past emerged, that sense of progress has been all but wiped out. We stand ready to take the steps needed to strengthen our past resolve and to keep children and young people safe for the future and to help heal those so tragically hurt by this abuse."
"Your bishops have been in intensive discussion about how to provide to the fullest extent humanly possible for the protection of children and youth," Bishop Gregory continued. "And, as you know, the Holy Father has taken a very personal interest in the work we are doing and has offered us whatever assistance we need in addressing this issue. Recommendations to achieve the goal of the protection of our children will be the main agenda item at the Bishops' General Meeting in Dallas, June 13-15. As we offer prayers for each of you, please pray for us, your Bishops, during the coming weeks that our decisions on behalf of children and youth will be wise and effective and for the well-being of the whole Church."
Bishop Gregory sent a copy of his letter to all bishops in the country, inviting each of them to print it in the diocesan newspaper with their signature as well as his.
Full text of Bishop Gregory's letter.