Burns: Church must 'remain vigilant' to protect children from 'scourge of abuse'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec


(CNS) — A Pennsylvania grand jury report on clergy sexual abuse of hundreds of
children over several decades and an Oscar win for “Spotlight,” about
the Boston abuse scandal, “brought painful, but important, reminders that
we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect children from the scourge of
abuse,” said Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau, Alaska.

bishop made the comments in a March 3 statement as chairman of the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and
Young People.

must never lose sight of the fact that every victim/survivor has personally
experienced profound injury, suffering and betrayal,” Bishop Burns said.

referred to the report
released March 1 by Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane, which says that at least
50 priests or religious leaders in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown,
Pennsylvania, were involved in the abuse and diocesan leaders systematically
concealed the abuse to protect the church’s image.

report identifies priests and other leaders by name and details incidents going
back to the 1970s. Kane said that much of the evidence revealed in the report
came from secret archives maintained by the diocese that was only available to
the bishops who led the diocese over the decades. The report also took law
enforcement to task for “perhaps looking the other way.”

report credited Bishop Mark L. Bartchak, the current bishop of Altoona-Johnstown,
who was appointed to the diocese in 2011, for reporting abuse allegations to
authorities and removing accused priests from ministry.

is heart wrenching and shocking to hear of this grand jury report or of any
incidents of abuse, and it is even more disturbing when we learn that innocent
children were abused by priests within the church,” Bishop Burns said in
his statement. “Once again, the wounds inflicted through these heinous
crimes have caused great pain and further mistrust in the church.”

said that although he could not speak to the specifics in Altoona-Johnstown “and
would defer to the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference as to any statewide impact,
like everyone, I read the news with great pain.”

noted that the movie “Spotlight,” which won the Academy Award for
Best Picture, “chronicles the courage of the victims and the journalists”
who told abuse victims/survivors’ story. The film is about the Boston
Globe in 2002 breaking the story on the abuse scandal when it began publishing
articles about the sexual abuse of minors by priests and accusations of a
systemic cover-up by church officials.

Burns referred to remarks about the film from the current archbishop of Boston,
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, and from L’Osservatore Romano. Both the paper and
the cardinal said “Spotlight” was an important film for all who have
been impacted by the tragedy of abuse.

moments are a reminder why the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and
Young People,’ adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002, exists and must be followed,”
Bishop Burns said. “This highlights all the more the importance that we
never grow complacent. As stated in the charter, we are to cooperate with law enforcement
agencies, permanently remove those who have offended, and effectively create a
safe environment for our children.”

with vigilance can we ensure that children are kept safe and so allow the church
to help our people in a process of healing and address the mistrust that rises
from these cases,” Bishop Burns said.

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