United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
When the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church first encountered sexual abuse of children and young adults by our clergy, we saw it as a moral failing to be addressed by penance. Later, we viewed these tendencies as mental illness, which doctors suggested could be controlled, if not cured. Most of today's specialists believe otherwise.
The law rightly makes it clear that sexual abuse of minors is a crime. We have all been enlightened. We continue to learn from our experiences and, hopefully, even more from our mistakes.
Today, heightened seminary-screening processes attempt to identify and weed out unhealthy candidates for the priesthood. Workshops are designed to help people define and understand boundaries, with the assurance that the law will address those unable to abide by them. We have urged our dioceses to form review boards of laity and professionals to assist in evaluating accusations as soon as they are received and to review fitness for service. And we have emphatically encouraged our brother bishops to address the needs of victims justly and pastorally.
Meanwhile, the United States' 350 bishops and 47,000 priests share in the shame and humiliation felt by our laity.
Catholics continue to celebrate and attend Mass. We visit the sick, counsel the troubled, aid the destitute and care for one another. Last year the Catholic Church provided social services to 11 million people and health care to more than 77 million patients. The church educated more than 3.5 million students, and welcomed more than 1.2 million into our ranks.
We know there are victims whose cries may still not have been heard. We apologize and regret the pain of all of those who have been affected by this horror more than these words can convey.
Wilton D. Gregory is bishop of Belleville, Ill., and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
First appeared in USA Today