Cardinal Dolan’s face-the-facts, do-what’s-right record on priestly abuse
It’s a tough time to be a Catholic. From the removal of Theodore McCarrick from the College of Cardinals to the disturbing Pennsylvania report (which prompted the New York attorney general to open a statewide investigation here), many Catholics have begun to question their church’s resolve to address the problem of clergy abuse.
Here in the Archdiocese of New York, at least, I can set some of those worries to rest.
Two years ago, along with Judge Loretta Preska and Dr. Jeanette Cueva, I agreed to serve on the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program board to finally bring some closure to victims of sexual misconduct at the hands of Catholic clergy. Creating this entity is just one example of Timothy Cardinal Dolan taking strong action in the face of this major crisis.
As the former city police commissioner and a graduate of Catholic grammar school, high school, college and law school, I’m heartened by Cardinal Dolan’s continued focus on this serious problem. Both in public and in private, he is steadfast in calling abuse what it is — “a heinous crime and a grave sin” — and he welcomed the attorney general’s investigation.
In IRCP’s first two years, nearly 300 victims of sexual abuse have been awarded more than $60 million in compensation. These settlements don’t change the past, but they are tangible recognition of the real pain and suffering that victims have experienced. From my experience on the committee, I can attest to the archdiocese’s commitment to transparency and accountability to finally bring this shameful chapter in the church’s history to a close.
There is no greater illustration of this commitment to justice than the circumstances surrounding McCarrick — the highest-ranking American clergy person ever to be removed for sexual abuse.
His abuse finally came to light when a brave victim-survivor came forward as part of the IRCP’s process, and the complaint was sent immediately to the Manhattan district attorney — as well as to Rome, where it led to McCarrick becoming an ex-cardinal. The archdiocese’s handling of the McCarrick complaint illustrates that no one is beyond accountability.
Last month, Cardinal Dolan made another important announcement, appointing Judge Barbara Jones to audit and oversee the archdiocese’s efforts to combat sexual abuse. With her extensive experience as an independent monitor on a range of high-profile issues, she brings a stellar reputation for integrity and hard work to this most important task.
Note that the church in New York’s commitment to rooting out sexual abuse didn’t begin with the IRCP. The archdiocese has instituted mandatory programs to ensure that the clergy (and anyone else who interacts with minors) undergo extensive background checks before being hired and throughout their tenure. Compliance officers, including former law-enforcement officials with experience in sex crimes, conduct ongoing audits at churches, schools and other facilities to ensure that appropriate practices are being followed to the strictest standard.
Anyone found to be violating “safe environment” policies is quickly removed from his or her post. In cases where misconduct is discovered, priests are removed immediately from service and the district attorney notified.
One other step that can help regain the trust of Catholics and the public in general: The names of all priests found to have committed abuse should be made public in a prominent location on the archdiocese’s Web site. In the past, the church has published the names in the archdiocesan newspaper and notified parishes. Having a complete list in one place would add an important layer of transparency.
Despite all that has been done, the scourge of sexual abuse continues to pain all of us who care for our children and our faith. I know that Cardinal Dolan shares this frustration, anger and disappointment, and it is why his appointment of Judge Jones is so important.
With the IRCP and other reforms, the archdiocese of New York has made real progress over the last several years. But no instance of abuse is tolerable. We must continue to be vigilant and proactive in safeguarding our children’s well-being in particular. Our goal must be to make our church and schools a safe home for all people and a place for peaceful prayer and reflection.
I am quite confident in Cardinal Dolan’s total commitment to achieving that goal.
Raymond W. Kelly was the city’s longest-serving police commissioner.
Source: Read Full Article