WASHINGTON (February 27, 2003) -- Two hundred ten priest canon lawyers received training in the canonical procedures for implementing the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in conjunction with The Catholic University of America (CUA), provided the training.
Leading the training was Monsignor Charles Scicluna, Promoter of Justice of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). The procedures outlined in the "Essential Norms" follow the procedures for cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy promulgated in Pope John Paul II's Motu proprio Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, dated April 30, 2001. These procedures are within the competence of the CDF.
Other presenters were Monsignor Thomas Green of the Canon law faculty of CUA and the Reverend Francis Morrissey, OMI, member of the faculty of Canon Law at St. Paul's University in Ottawa.
Two groups of canonist lawyers were trained, one during the week of February 17 and the other during the week of February 24.
These canonists will assist dioceses around the country in conducting the necessary judicial processes in cases of priests or deacons accused of sexual abuse of minors. They will act as judges, promoters of justice, and advocates in these procedures which deal solely with the status of the cleric as a minister of the Church. They do not impede any civil trial or litigation that may be involved in a case. They do not interfere with any civil penalty that may be assessed against an offender.
Offering introductory remarks at the sessions were St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, chairman of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, Rockford Bishop Thomas G. Doran, chairman of the USCCB's Committee for Canonical Affairs, and the Very Reverend David M. O'Connell,C.M., president of the Catholic University of America.
The training was supported, in part, by a generous grant from the Knights of Columbus.
The prepared texts of the remarks by Archbishop Flynn, Bishop Doran, and Father O'Connell are attached.
Remarks by Archbishop Harry Flynn
February 24, 2003
Each of you is painfully aware that the Church in our country over this past year has been confronted with what I believe may be the most serious pastoral challenge in our history. I do not need to review the whole sad situation with you. Instead, I think now is a time to focus on the solutions to this crisis.
The Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, which I am privileged to serve as chairman, has worked diligently to develop a comprehensive framework of response to the crisis that was erupting around us last year. In a rather brief period of time our Committee developed The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. We also developed the original draft of the Essential Norms which were a provision to establish particular law for the Church for our country. We believed that only with such a comprehensive framework, and the establishment of this particular law, could we move forward as a Church through this time of crisis and eventually be able to restore trust. We are grateful to the body of bishops and to the Holy See for the strong support and ultimately the recognitio that have enabled us now to implement these measures.
One aspect of the broad framework of response to this crisis which we now seek to implement focuses upon the individual priest who is accused of the delict or crime of the sexual abuse of a minor. It was the Holy Father , speaking last April to the American cardinals and officers of our Conference who stated that "people need to know that there is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young". (Address, April 23, 2002)
Clearly we need to approach this matter, at every level of the Church, with the most profound sense of responsibility. Because of the gravity of the crime involved and its serious consequences, it is even more essential that anyone accused of it be able to avail himself of the processes established by the Church. I want to thank each one of you, in the name of the USCCB, for being here for this study week. You will play a most significant role in meeting our responsibility to insure justice for all as we seek to bring these cases to closure. Without such just resolution we will not be able to move forward.
Each of you has been proposed by your Bishop or Religious Superior. I am pleased to note that we have participating in this program diocesan priests, men from religious orders, canonists from the Eastern Churches, and some other periti .Together you will help to form a pool of canonists which will be available to our dioceses to conduct the penal process that will be part of that framework for ensuring safety for our young people, justice for victims, and clear and due process for those who are accused.
The purpose of these days is to prepare you to be judges, advocates and promoters of justice in penal processes. This program is not meant to be a general review of all the canonical issues related to the "Essential Norms". In fact, it is my understanding that that kind of overview will be provided in a workshop to be held by the School of Canon Law of the Catholic University of America on March 21-22 here in Washington.
On behalf of the bishops of the United States I want to express a word of gratitude to Msgr. Charles Scicluna, the Promoter of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Holy See has made him available to us, and we are both privileged and honored to have him with us. I think you will also find him a delightful teacher. Msgr. Sciclina was born in Toronto in 1959 but he was raised and educated in Malta. He graduated in civil law in 1984 and received a Licentiate in Theology in 1986. He was ordained a priest that same year for the Archdiocese of Malta. He studied Canon Law at the Gregorian University and graduated JCD with a specialization in Jurisprudence in 1991 with a thesis directed by Fr. Urban Navarette S.J. He served as Defender of the Bond on the Metropolitan Tribunal of Malta from 1990-1995 and lectured in Canon Law at the University of Malta. In 1995 he was called to the Apostolic Signatura and in 1996 was nominated Substitute Promoter of Justice. He is a visiting Lecturer at the Gregorian. HE was nominated Promoter of Justice of the CDF in October of 2002.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Father Francis Morrisey, O.M.I., member of the faculty of Canon Law at St. Paul's University in Ottawa and Father Mark Bartcha, the Vice- President of the Canon Law Society of America , who will moderate the question and answer periods that have been included as part of our work this week.
Let me also acknowledge the presence of my brother Bishops Archbishop John Myers of Newark and Bishop David Fellhauer of Victoria Texas, member of the Committee on Canonical Affairs. Bishop Walter Paska, former Auxiliary Bishop to the Archeparch of Philadelphia for Ukrainians will also address us toward the end of the session about the role of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches in penal procedures. Also with us is Dr. Nicholas Cafardi, Dean of the School of Law of Duquesne University and a member of the National Review Board.
A word of thanks is in order to Fr. David O'Connell and the Catholic University of America for co-sponsoring this study week. Fr. O'Connell was with us last week but unfortunately could not be here today. I would also like to acknowledge publicly and with profound gratitude the Knights of Columbus and Mr. Carl Anderson, the Supreme Knight. They made a generous contribution to help defray the costs of this seminar, and in so doing have once again demonstrated their generosity and willingness to assist the Church and the work of the Bishops here in the United States and beyond. A word of thanks is also due to the staff of the John Paul II Cultural Center. Fr. Michael Bugarin and all of those associated with this wonderful center have been very helpful and accommodating so that this seminar can take place.
As you begin this study week I must advise you that it will be intense. There is a good deal of material to cover. But I want to encourage you and I urge you to keep before you the ecclesial ministry to which you are now being called. Your study here and your efforts at home will be a very important contribution to the protection of young people, the assurance of justice and due process, and the restoration of trust in all levels of the Church in this country. God bless you all.
Opening Comments by Bishop Doran
February 17, 2003
I want to thank you, in the name of the USCCB, for being here for this study week. Rarely has the Church faced a pastoral challenge as great as that of the sexual abuse of young people by clergy. You will be a large part of meeting this challenge.
Despite an immense amount of work devoted to this serious problem by the bishops for more than 15 years, last year saw a tremendous resurgence of interest in it. Much of the opinion expressed in the media and elsewhere showed a lack of understanding of the bishops' actions which led to many distortions. Instead of being presented as a problem on its way to a solution, sexual abuse of young people by clergy was often the subject of sensational coverage that left Catholics with the erroneous impression that our church institutions are not safe for their children.
Of course the Catholic people have been genuinely and legitimately shocked that at any time some priests have deprived children and young people of their innocence by abusing them sexually. For all the efforts I have referred to, we bishops profoundly regret that this behavior had not yet been everywhere completely and thoroughly dealt with. If it had, perhaps the vast majority of devoted priests who are without sin in this matter and their people would have been spared the demoralizing experience of last year.
As so often in the past, we find our support and strength in overcoming a crisis in the See of Peter. In the Motu Proprio "Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela," our Holy Father Pope John Paul II gives the essence of why we are holding these study weeks. Safeguarding the holiness of the sacraments and preserving the faithful in their observance of the Sixth Commandment "demand that the Church itself, in her pastoral solicitude, intervene to avert dangers of violation, so as to provide for the salvation of souls `which must always be the supreme law in the Church' (CIC, c. 1752)."
By including sexual abuse of minors by clergy among the "more grave crimes" the Holy See shows concern that this sinful and criminal behavior be treated with the severity which it deserves. As the Holy Father told the American cardinals and officers of our Conference last April, "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young" (Address, April 23, 2002).
In this address the Holy Father shared our grief that "priests and religious, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young." He condemned this abuse unequivocally. He called it "by every standard wrong" and said that it is "rightly considered a crime by society," adding, "it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God." He expresses to the victims and their families, as well, "wherever they may be ... my profound sense of solidarity and concern."
No one should think that we approach this matter, at every level of the Church, with anything but the most profound sense of responsibility.
Because of the gravity of the crime involved and its serious consequences, it is even more essential that anyone accused of it be able to avail himself of the processes established by the Church.
The work of the Mixed Commission, which met last October to revise the "Essential Norms" originally submitted for recognitio by the USCCB after its spring General Meeting in Dallas, preserved the principle established there of permanently removing from ministry those who have abused children and young people. At the same time the revised Norms made clear and specific the canonical processes for accused priests and deacons by which an initial investigation is to take place and the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith is to be informed (Letter, May 18, 2001) where there is sufficient evidence, after which the Congregation will notify the diocesan bishop how to proceed. With these clarifications and additions, the USCCB approved the revised Essential Norms, and they quickly received the Holy See's recognitio. They come into effect on March 1.
I would offer just a word about the manner by which the participants were selected for this training. According to the norms promulgated by the Holy Father's Apostolic Letter, in the processes for the crime of sexual abuse of a minor by clerics, "the functions of judge, promoter of Justice, notary, and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests." On that basis, Bishop Wilton Gregory, as President of the USCCB, wrote to all the Bishops asking them to propose the names of priests with the canonical experience and personal qualities which would make them suitable for these roles. Each of you has been proposed by your Bishop or Religious Superior. I am pleased to note that we have here present diocesan priests, men from religious orders and a number of canonists of the Eastern Catholic Churches. Together, you will be part of the pool of canonists that will be available to conduct the penal processes that will be part of the means of ensuring safety for our young people, justice for victims, and clear and due process for those who are accused.
The clear purpose of the next 3 days is specifically focused. It is to prepare you to be judges, advocates and promoters of justice in penal processes. It is therefore not intended to be a general review of all the canonical issues related to the "Essential Norms". In fact, it is my understanding that that kind of overview will be more closely related to the nature of the Workshop to be held by the School of Canon Law of The Catholic University of America on March 21-22.
I would like to acknowledge in a special way this afternoon the presence of Msgr. Charles Scicluna. Msgr. Scicluna is the Promoter of Justice of the Supreme Tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Holy See has made him available to us to assist in this training. We are both privileged and honored to have him here with us. The other presenter this week is someone well known to all of you. Msgr. Thomas Green of the School of Canon Law of the Catholic University of America has spent many years contributing to the instruction and understanding of Canon Law in the United States and beyond. Msgr. Green, thank you in advance for all of the work you have done to prepare for this week, and we look forward to your presentations and comments with keen interest. A third contributor this week is Father Larry O'Keefe. Father O'Keefe is the President of the Canon Law Society of America and he has graciously agreed to assist us by moderating the question and answer periods that have been included as part of our work this week. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of Bishop Dave Fellhauer of Victoria Texas and a member of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Bishop Walter Paska, former Auxiliary Bishop to the Archeparch of Philadelpia for Ukrainians. Bishop Paska will address us toward the end of the session about the role of the Canons of Eastern Churches in penal procedures.
Also present today or perhaps at various times during the week are several guest participants. Sister Sharon Euart and Dr. Barbara Anne Cusack, Father Robert Kennedy and Msgr. John Renken are consultants to the Bishops' Committee on Canonical Affairs. The members of the faculty of the CUA School of Canon Law have likewise been invited, especially so that by their further understanding of the discussions which we will be holding they can be helpful in making this available to others through their Workshop, classes and writing. Ms. Kathleen McChesney, Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the USCCB will also be with us from time to time. To all of our invited observers, a very warm and cordial welcome.
Introductory Remarks by The Very Rerverend David O'Connell, C.M., President of the Catholic University of America
February 18, 2003
This past year has been a nightmare for all of us in the Catholic Church. And, as is the case with any nightmare, we hoped to wake up from the terror only to realize that it was just a bad dream. We awoke but, unfortunately, the nightmare remained.
Day after day, week after week, month after month a seemingly unrelenting series of revelations appeared daily "on page one, above the fold" and on every news broadcast throughout our country repeating stories of sexual abuse of minors by our brothers in the clergy. And if that was not bad enough, the admitted mishandling of cases of such misconduct by bishops and other diocesan officials for the past several decades lent tragic support to the claim that the Church was rapidly losing its moral authority and credibility.
While we could never accept such a claim, the wake of the resulting scandal left us shaken, demoralized and unable to respond adequately.
How could this have happened? What are the circumstances that turned our world upside down in the Church and left us bruised and bleeding? Will the Church recover?
Rightly, in the year that has passed, the Church has placed primary emphasis upon the victims of sexual abuse: young women and men and their families who felt that their most sacred trust had been betrayed. Precious little could be done to restore lost innocence or to repair the psychological, emotional and spiritual scars that have marked hundreds of young people as they struggled to assume a healthy adulthood.
Without diminishing in any way the suffering experienced by the young and their families which always must be our first concern and restoring trust by protecting them in the present moment and the future, we must also realize that the Church as a whole has been the victim of the sinful, criminal behavior of a few who have assumed the role of wolves not in sheep's but in shepherds' clothing.
In his extraordinary meeting with the Cardinal Archbishops of the United States on April 23, 2002, our Holy Father Pope John Paul II remarked that I too have been deeply grieved by the fact that priests and religious, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young. Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the Church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern.
Our Holy Father continued
It must be absolutely clear to the Catholic faithful, and to the wider community, that Bishops and superiors are concerned, above all else, with the spiritual good of souls. People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that Bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life.
In his remarks at the conclusion of the Bishops' meeting in Dallas, Conference President Bishop Wilton Gregory stated that
These are times that cry out for a genuine reconciliation within the Church in our country; not a reconciliation that merely binds a wound so that we can move forward together in some hobbled kind of fashion. What we need is a reconciliation that heals: one that brings us together to address this issue in a way that ensures that it will not happen again; one that begins with a love of the Truth that is Jesus Christ; one that embraces fully and honestly the authentic elements of the Sacrament of Penance as we celebrate it in the Catholic tradition. Only by truthful confession, heartfelt contrition, and firm purpose of amendment can we hope to receive the generous mercy of God and the forgiveness of our brothers and sisters (June 13, 2002).
That is our purpose for gathering in these few days that are ahead. We need to reconcile not only wounded people within the Church, the most important focus of our efforts. We need to reconcile structures within the Church so that, as Bishop Gregory stated, this "will not happen again;" so that the rights of all can be studied, understood, addressed and adjudicated within the Church's own laws and procedures.
Like myself, many of you were educated in canon law at The Catholic University of America. Within the past year, as its president, I have preferred not to permit the national university of the Catholic Church in our country to be drawn into this crisis as an isolated quotation in the morning newspapers or a "sound bite" on the evening news. In the midst of a media frenzy, I did not create seminars and forums to discuss accusations and allegations, finger-pointing and blame, hierarchical mistakes and projections for alterations in Church teaching and doctrine. I believed then and I still believe that The Catholic University of America had something more significant to contribute to the permanent healing for which our Church so desperately longs.
In conversations with bishops on our board of trustees and others prior to and after Dallas, it became clear to me that proposed approaches to applications of canon law and its comprehensive implementation would be the best and most enduring response that The Catholic University of America, with its distinguished faculty of canon law, could make to the national conversation on a topic that has deeply wounded the Church.
The generosity of the Knights of Columbus, called upon so often to support the Church's efforts to do good, and the leadership and work of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have made these seminars possible. I am grateful that The Catholic University of America, as co-sponsor, could play an active role in the work that is ahead of us here at The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. To the canon law alumni of CUA and to all of the canonists who have come to Washington to prepare for the difficult ministry that awaits us, I bid you welcome and I assure you of our prayerful support. May The Catholic University of America continue to be a resource in the process of reconciliation and healing and the restoration of trust that is yet to unfold within our Church at your hands as canonists.