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BISHOP VANN REFLECTS ON RECENT ABUSE SCANDALS

8/15/2018

Editor’s Note: The following reflection from Bishop Kevin Vann was written and submitted to OC Catholic newspaper on Wednesday, August 15, the feast day of the Assumption of Our Lady. 

————

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

It is with the utmost sorrow that I write to you in this time of great scandal and tribulation in our Church. Many people in leadership, particularly among the episcopacy, have failed the people of God. There can be no ambiguity about this.

As your spiritual father and the shepherd of this Diocese, I have prayed, struggled, and reflected a great deal these past few weeks in order to determine how I can best serve you.

The release of the Pennsylvania’s Grand Jury report yesterday confirms that we who lead the Church have a great responsibility to take action against a predation that can only be called satanic.

After I was appointed to our Diocese I began to meet regularly with our Oversight Review Board, whose charge it is to advise me on matters concerning accusations of sexual abuse of a minor perpetrated by a cleric. Based on the painful experiences in my home Diocese of Springfield, Illinois during Bishop Daniel Ryan’s tenure which resulted in a devastating loss of trust, I wanted to take every opportunity to create a truly safe environment, including reviewing allegations involving adults, not just minors. I regularly seek the members of this group to offer their observations and advice on a variety of matters that came to the attention of the Diocese. Their counsel has been invaluable and a great help in dealing with matters of misconduct, regarding both clerical and lay matters. Their membership includes ten lay experts, one priest, and one religious sister. Five diocesan employees also staff the Board, three of whom are clergy and two lay. I am grateful to all of the members for their sage advice and willingness to serve. In addition, I urge anyone who has been a victim of clerical abuse in our Diocese to report the abuse by calling our toll free number: (800) 364-3064.

In light of the revelations surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, not to mention the situations in Honduras and Chile, I now know that the review process needs to be expanded to include claims from seminarians and priests so that they, too, are protected from sexual abuse by those in power. Additionally, I will review our process with my leadership team to confirm that it is as robust as possible.

Canon law provides for judicial processes to try all clergy, including bishops, who are charged with canonical crimes. Make no mistake, sexual crimes against the faithful are serious violations of Church law. As a canon lawyer, I know also that these canonical processes were strengthened by Pope Francis as recently as 2016. It goes without saying that there are civil and criminal recourses, as well.

I appreciate the righteous anger expressed toward those who have failed to follow due process and the demands of accountability. I also want to assure you that I am committed to join with my brother bishops to address these failings. A competent independent national investigative body comprised of qualified professionals needs to be created so that if we have systemic issues within our Church, they can be thoroughly reviewed and addressed. I pledge my support to this and will allocate diocesan funds for this purpose.

Unequivocally, I join my brother bishops who have already spoken out to identify the root cause as a crisis in holiness. Shepherds who sincerely seek the Lord do not abuse the power that Our Lord has entrusted to them. Those who abuse this holy office fail Christ and his Church.

In this difficult time, please join with me to pray that our Church be purified, that all the people who have been wounded by abuse on the part of the clergy experience healing, and that I, along with the rest of Church leadership, act with wisdom, courage, and humility to fulfill the office that the Lord has entrusted to us.

On this, the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, I pray that she be consoled to see the truth of these injustices coming to light so that her children may be part of a Church that is worthy of them and of her Son.

With gratitude for your support and appreciation for your continued prayers,

Bishop Kevin W. Vann

40 Responses to “BISHOP VANN REFLECTS ON RECENT ABUSE SCANDALS”

  1. Barbara Yanchar

    Dear Bishop Van,
    Thank you for your encouraging words. When I read the reports yesterday my heart broke. As an 80 year old Catholic woman on her last journey of life, this was very difficult for me to comprehend. As a Catholic, my faith in my church was somewhat shattered. I need my Church as much as I need God. Please continue your investigation, and I will continue to pray for you as I have every day and night.✝️❤️

    Reply
  2. Suzanne Mills

    I am proud to be a member of this diocese and to be led by a Bishop of such integrity and humility Each time a story of abuse and concealment is like re-opening a large wound. I think of the wounds in Our Lord’s hands and those saints who have also borne that bleeding memory.
    And yet it is the terrible silence in the parishes that also wounds. It is a holocaust of silence. How can we bear these wounds?
    Please lead us.
    .

    Reply
  3. MRS. DIANNE LIVENGOOD

    VERY WELL WRITTEN BISHOP VANN–OUR CONTINUED PRAYERS ARE WITH YOU, THE DIOCESE AND THE WHOLE CATHOLIC CHURCH

    Reply
  4. Mary Elizabeth Leis

    Thank you Bishop Vann for your sincerity.
    Though I am not a member of your Diocese I
    respect that you took the time to address this issue with your parishioners.
    Through God’s love and mercy Holy Mother Church will prevail, She has weathered many other scandals throughout Her history and She will again.
    We must all pray as never before for cleansing and healing.
    May God have mercy.

    Reply
  5. Denise

    May God greatly reward His Excellency, The Most Reverend Kevin Vann, Bishop of Orange, and all other clergy for all they do for His greater honor and glory. +Amen

    Reply
  6. Elsa

    We can definitely see that there needs to be a change in the screening of young men who are seeking the priesthood for the wrong reasons. Maybe our seminaries need to be transformed to places where young men can grow in Faith and become Christian and not just administrators without faith.

    Reply
  7. C. Ortiz

    My heart goes out to all the victims and i pray for their healing. I appreciate the work Bishop Vann is doing to address and prevent issues of abuse in our Diocese . But we must make it clear that when someone has been abused by our clerics , the victim needs to FIRST call the local law enforcement immediately Then call the number Bishop Vann suggests.

    Praying for the Victims, Clergy, the Church and the world.

    Reply
    • Erin Artukovic

      Absolutely call the police. I have no faith left in safety of my children in the church. It is terrible to have too look up priests to find a parish where no priests have been accused of sexual assault. I can never allow my children to be alter servers and I volunteer at every catechism class because I am fearful that my children might be molested. I am trying to figure out how to have my eldest daughter confirmed without her attending the mandatory retreat. NO she will not go by herself. MY Faith in Hid is strong but my faith in the church is rocked.

      Reply
  8. John Freeman

    Bishop Vann,

    I was listening to Patrick Madrid on Relevant Radio this morning as he praised your efforts to make Church structures more accountable especially in that you have appointed a lay woman theologian as the Chancellor of your diocese, Pia de Solenni, PhD

    Reply
    • Matthew

      Women can just as easily be predators and criminals. Our prisons are filled with them. Changing the face of something doesn’t make it safer, it simply lowers the guard of the victims and those that should be watching out for them.

      Better screening, accountability, continuous training, checks and balances, and discipline (punishment) at all levels are the answer to making the Church a safer place.

      Reply
  9. Thomas J Mueller, Holy Spirit Parish

    My dear Bishop Vann:

    Thank you for your letter that outlines a plan for being proactive on the matter of potential clergy abuse. There was an incident in 1952 in my parish in Wisconsin. Bishop Bono of the Diocese of Green Bay wasted no time in acting decisively on removing the offending priest and sending him to a facility in New Mexico. I am sure that you and your selected staff of clergy and laity will develop effective plans for both prevention and correction.

    Reply
  10. Judy michalek

    THANK YOU, Bishop Van, for addressing this crisis head on. We are so blessed to have you at the helm of our boat during this storm…may our diocese join together in prayer asking Jesus to, once again, calm the sea!
    PLEASE submit your insightful and hopeful letter to the OC Register. (i.e. not just the OC Catholic). PEOPLE OF ALL FAITHS NEED TO HEAR YOUR WORDS! I hope, too, that every pastor will make sure it is read at every Mass this Sunday.
    May God send butterflies to cross your path during this sad time. Hope springs eternal! With love and prayers, Judy Michalek

    Reply
  11. Deborah Ambrose

    Dear Bishop Vann
    Thank you for your insights. We the laity are joined with you in prayer.
    My greatest concern is that while there are canonical judicial processes in place, they were never exercised. From what I can glean from the report, much at the level of not only Bishops but also within the Vatican itself must also be reviewed for effective solutions to take root.
    Much is still unknown as to who knew what and when within the Church both here and in Rome. I pray that this is the beginning of fruitful action, guided by the Holy Spirit, between the Bishops and our Holy Father. Know of my prayers for you and all good and holy Bishops.
    Your sister in Christ,
    Deborah Ambrose

    Reply
  12. Eleanor Sprankle

    Thank you for your statement..My pastor on Aug 15..spoke of the problem and it was gut wrenching to hear him speak…so many good priests tarnished by not the few but by far too many…my prayers for my mother the Church .

    Reply
  13. Rick Garrett

    Humans, no matter what their position, will always make mistakes, some will be serious, sinful mistakes. We must support and pray for the victims of these abuses. Many who have weak faith will wrongly use these crises as reasons to blame Catholicism and leave the Church, and even hate the Church. What they don’t understand is that the Catholic faith and religion are separate from human frailty. The Catholic Church is the first and only church founded by Jesus himself, and it’s precepts, sacraments, saints, and traditions are unchanged, and offer the same salvation it always has, regardless of the sinful mistakes of those who work in the Church.

    Reply
  14. Mary L Davenport, MD, FACOG

    Your Excellency:
    What about your fellow bishops who are sexual predators, active homosexuals and satanists?
    What is the mechanism for dealing with them?
    Do we really think Pope Francis is going to do it?
    I have zero confidence in Pope Francis after his appointment of Archbishop Paglia, who gutted the Pntifical Academy for Life and commissioned a homoerotic mural of himself in his cathedral. Open your eyes. It is worse than you think.

    Reply
  15. Lori LaFavre

    Thank you Bishop Vann for you thoughtful and wise words. I would like to suggest that we include the victims of sexual abuse in our prayer of the faithful – it often seens we are afraid to mention them for fear of i don’t know what. I think we should let them know we know they have suffered unfairly.

    Reply
  16. Kristin Wat

    Thank you so much, Bishop Vann, for your virtuous words and brave direction on this issue. I thank you as a sister in Christ, as a mother, and as an employee of your Diocese.

    Reply
  17. Meg Hogan

    Many blessings on this journey, Bishop Kevin! I know this issue is near to your heart.

    Reply
  18. Spencer Hamer

    “A competent independent national investigative body comprised of qualified professionals needs to be created so that if we have systemic issues within our Church, they can be thoroughly reviewed and addressed.”

    IF? It’s 2018, not 2002. Or the 1980s, when the the entire national conference of bishops was warned about this coming in the near future and chose to do nothing.

    Your use of the the word “if” shows once again, that there is and sadly, likely always will be, a failure of the church to understand the horrific evil that it has perpetrated.

    Spencer Hamer, parishioner, St. Edward the Confessor, Dana Point

    Reply
  19. Rita and Jim Whitaker

    You have spoken for the Catholic Church and so many of us who are so wounded by this and ask God for forgiveness. We pray for those who were hurt and for continued help for recovery.

    Reply
  20. Emilie Kua

    I appreciate your response to this satanic work in the leadership of the church but what is lacking is more prayer and fasting as Jesus states in the gospel. We all need to repent and beg the grace of conversion from top to bottom in our church. Would you lead us in praying and fasting as Jesus asked?

    Reply
  21. Maryrose Hagenbach

    I commend Bishop Vann for his strong and proactive stand on this tragic issue facing our church. Once again Bishop Vann stands as a leader of compassion and integrity. As a member of his home diocese in Illinois and as one who served in his parish school for many years, I know that he will pursue justice for victims and reform with equal vigor. These are difficult times for all Catholics, and we are in serious need of Christlike, authentic leadership. Bishop Vann is such a leader.

    Reply
  22. Nancy Cunningham

    I was saddened to learn of the 900-page report in Pennsylvania. I thought our U.S. Bishops would have been tramping out this abuse. When I did some further review online, I found that not that many dioceses have faced abuse charges. I am proud of the fact that the Diocese of Orange is one of the few that stepped up to right a wrong. I am also happy with the fact that our diocese has an Oversight Review Board. I know a couple of members and they, along with the others, exemplify what it mean to protect those who have been abused. No apologies or money can take away the hurt and anger that has been caused by trusted individuals in our church. I ask: What about the other dioceses? When will they step up and be held accountable?

    Further, I am troubled about what took place in Chile and the Honduras was allowed to happen. That action totally rest with the Pope and the church hierarchy.

    I love our church and throughout this church scandal have never thought of turning away from the church. Am I unhappy with the leadership? Yes! What I need at church is community and Eucharist. When I walk through those church doors I am one in community and one with Christ. My hope is that one day soon, our leadership will face the consequences of their leadership and make some major changes.

    Reply
  23. Jeanine Thomas

    All crimes must be reported directly to the police and handled in the US court system and any priest or bishop who knows of any allegations should be legally responsible to report to the law. Any Catholic judicial or Cannonical process may hinder this and bureaucratically add to the appearance of a cover up.

    Reply
  24. Emkay lantz

    Your Excellency Bishop Vann;$

    Please read Bishop Morlino from Madison, WI, letter on the abuse scandal in our Church.

    I think he is right on. Your letter and wording sounds like there is a big mound of dirt still under the rug, and the Diocese of Orange might be dancing all around it. Sexual abuse on minors is not truth; homosexuality is.

    Reply
  25. Denise Lajoie

    Reparation is needed, by all. And led by the Bishop. In addition, we all need to examine our consciences so that we are sure we aren’t part of the problem. Again, the Bishops need to lead in this respect. I’ve recently heard our Bishop has been known to give into the contraceptive mentality supposedly “for the greater good”. This should never be the case. So, Bishop Vann, make certain you are doing everything in accordance with the Lord’s commandments and not going along with the world.

    Reply
  26. R Toal

    Its clear from this letter that nothing of any substance will be done. What is needed is for the Pope to send his bishops to hospitals where they will spend half their day in prayer and the other half cleaning toilets.

    Reply
  27. Joe Chirillo

    Bishop Vann.
    With all due respect, this an anemic response to such a pervasive issue that continues to destroy the public trust of the church. The remedies in your article seem solely to suggest and address administrative remedies from the church. The church’s administrative remedies thus far have shown a pretty bleak history that includes denial, and transferring the problem elsewhere, and not reporting the problem to proper authorities. Bishop Vann the church’s administrative remedies are ancillary to the addressing the problem and asking the members of this diocese to rely on a system that has been corrupt and apparently continues to be corrupt does nothing to restore the trust of the members of the diocese. This not to say this diocese is corrupt, I am speaking of the church’s adminstrative remedies globally.
    You tell anyone who is a victim of sexual abuse to report to the diocese 800 Number. Why should they report to a system that has continued to fail them. I appreciative your effort to review that process and make it better
    But the solution does not lie in how the church addresses this alleged abuse administratively. Instead sir, you need to lead from the front and acknowledge publicly that first and formost that this alleged sexual abuse are CRIMES. Instead of encouraging your flock to report sexual abuse solely to the diocese, you should first encourage them to report the alleged abuse to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation and adjudication and then to the diocese. In the event that someone reports this alleged abuse to the diocese instead of the police, then this alleged abuse should immediately be referred to your oversite committee and the lay members of that committee should be mandatory reporters and immediatey report the alleged abuse to the proper authorities. Having the lay members report the abuse obviates any confidential communication issues with the clergy you may foresee. The church should also place the alleged offender on paid administrative leave and ensure that the alleged offender gets all due process afforded to them. The alleged offender while on admistrative leave should be removed from all public contacts involving the church or be totally relieved of their duties pending the outcome of the the criminal investigation by authorities and the adminstrative investigation by the church.

    If the church leadership fails to demonstrate a zero tolerance for this behavior and fails to pledge to be forthright with reporting this alleged abuse to authorities, as it has failed to do in the past, it will never restore the public trust in the clergy that the church leadership has severely damaged.
    Respectfully submitted,

    Reply
  28. Rett Lemoult

    Thank you for letting us know what you will do to avoid sex abuse in the future.
    However, For me, your letter was disengaged from the reality of this pervasive cancer in our church. It was lawyerly and institutional. I expected an apology. I expected outrage and contrition. You, as a leader of the church should apologize not only to the victims but also to the parishioners.
    Take a lesson from today’s letter from Pope Francis. As did he, acknowledge the “Shame and repentance.”
    There are underlying causes of the sex abuse. One, of course is Priests being unable to marry. But there is a hubris, versus the “humility” you asked us to pray for you. The money spent on the Crystal Cathedral is a good example of that. Could not that money be better spent on the poor? The homeless? The sick?
    Our church must reconsider its mission. I don’t think fancy buildings are our mission. Do you?

    Reply
  29. MIchael J. Sundstedt

    Your Excellency:

    Thank you for your letter. It appears to be in good faith, and is a small step in the right direction. However, bigger, bolder steps are critically needed to address what I’m certain you know is the root of the problem. As an attorney and catholic who dealt with the sexual scandals in this very diocese before you arrived. I talked to many lay experts back in the early 2000’s. I heard countless stories, and sadly saw what is being repeated across America, and in Western Europe. The problem has devastated our Holy Catholic Church. The problem is straightforward, and twofold: 1) homosexual priests and hierarchy who are promulgating an agenda to convert our faith to track with secular morality, and who thus protect and shield their own and marginalize “the orthodox ones”, and 2) All other priests, pastors, and bishops afraid to speak out, afraid of everyone’s judgment – – but God’s.

    Until you courageously but charitably address these two root problems, nothing – nothing will change.

    So many of us are waiting for brave bishops to step forward in truth to fight for our Holy Church, but they need the backs of their good brother bishops. 11-12 brave bishops are all that is needed. Jesus changed the world with just 11 bishops in Palestine. God is watching if you are one of the brave, or one of the timid. I will continue to pray for you for courage, and if you do speak out, I will defend your position in prayer and in deeds.

    Most Respectfully,

    Michael J. Sundstedt, Esq.

    Reply
  30. Mary Oster

    Mahoney should be in jail.. Theres been too much talk and no action from Rome. We need married priests and women priests.

    Reply
  31. Michael Reger

    Dear Bishop Kevin —

    Thank you for your letter. I have one request to make of you — and the entire church for that matter:

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE get ALL of the information from ALL of the dioceses in the US out now. I am dismayed to see this information trickling out from time to time. As painful as it may be, I think it would be much better to air all of the dirty laundry at once. Once we do that, we will show we are truly committed to transparency and we will be able to begin to move on. Until then, the Church will be seen as hiding something and not worthy of trust.

    Please do all you can to make this happen.

    Thanks for listening.

    God bless you and all good clergy everywhere for all you do.

    Reply
  32. Ana Sanchez MD

    I’m sorry, but that’s not enough.
    If the Bishops want the Church to survive as an institution, they have to stop being selfish and they have to share power. Otherwise, you’re going to have a lot of bills and a lot of empty pews.
    Because we are SICK AND TIRED, not just of having our children abused, or of seeing financial scandals in Rome, but of having no say in our Church. We are tired of being told what to think and what to do by men who are out of touch with reality. This abuse of power happened because there is no oversight over those who hold all the power, and that can’t go on anymore because we’re in the 21st century, not the 12th. We are not uneducated peasants; we can teach our own children and we can pray in our own homes, maybe in our own closets like Jesus recommended. In fact, we might need to take our Church underground for a while until the Bishops understand that significant change is long overdue.

    Reply
  33. Bill Jones

    Dear Bishop Van,
    Your letter was read to us in church. I think that it was good for a baby step. Much more should and needs to be done. Through prayer and fasting I believe that the Holy Spirit will guide us through this mess.

    On a different note all the critics that say that the church isn’t doing enough. I ask them this. What are you doing to help this situation? How are you reaching out in love (not only to correct, but also help improve this area of flaws in the population in the world.) It’s easy to sit back in your easy chair and direct (what you think) the means to solve any problem, much less something of this magnitude. Or criticize others that are doing their best to solve. I think criticizing is non productive and destructive. Better yet offer to help with prayer and fasting to find a solution. And in some cases I think a understanding of God’s love for everyone would be very beneficial to building the church rather than tearing it done. Destroying the Church is what Satan wants. This is not just the church’s problem, it’s all our problem.

    Thank you for listening

    Reply
  34. Erin Artukovic

    Absolutely call the police. I have no faith left in safety of my children in the church. It is terrible to have too look up priests to find a parish where no priests have been accused of sexual assault. I can never allow my children to be alter servers and I volunteer at every catechism class because I am fearful that my children might be molested. I am trying to figure out how to have my eldest daughter confirmed without her attending the mandatory retreat. NO she will not go by herself. MY Faith in Hid is strong but my faith in the church is rocked.

    Reply
  35. Nick Dinh

    Dear Bishop Vann,

    You can have my vote of no confidence in the USCCB on preventing these terrible crimes in the future. These crimes are demonic and satanic at the first order, committing by the highest clergies of the Catholic Church. The time to talk and more timid talk is over. The Body of Christ need courageous men to lead, to be unafraid of martyrdom, to speak truth, to throw themselves into the war against the infiltration of homosexual predators, pedophiles into the Catholic Church.

    Time like this can create martyrs and Holy Saints or cowards. Be courageous and clean out these filth starting at our seminaries where the homosexual deviants often flock to like flies. That’s the practical step that you as our leader can do. May the Holy Spirit guide you and be with you at every decision you make.

    Reply
  36. Ann Erwin

    This calls for special prayer and fasting one day a week. Return to Friday abstinence. Suggestions of ordaining women and married men lead me to think we need homilies to educate us on what the Church teaches about the priesthood and why single men are chosen. Marriage does not guarantee fidelity to one’s spouse. We are all tempted to sin. What is needed is a real love for the Lord and willingness to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, whatever it takes. We must make prayer for priests a daily commitment. And have Masses offered frequently.

    Reply
  37. Louise Considine

    Hello Bishop Vann,
    Your Chancellor has pledged complete transparency. After your mid August letter, which did not outline any specific steps that the church is taking to explore the heinous crimes done by the institutional church and priests, we at our parishes have not received any further information from you or anyone in your office that specifically outlines the steps to be taken to prosecute the perpetrators of rape and molestation done to children and adults who were at the mercy of our priest community. Where is the transparency? I have heard this discussed by the church hierarchy as ‘failures’ of the church. If the clergy were parents of children perhaps then the spotlight would be off protecting the male clergy and on the children who have suffered from depression and sometimes even suicide because of the crimes perpetrated by the priest community. Our elder Catholics are devastated, they are devastated by the fact that many of our bishops have protected their fellow priests and not our children for decades. Bishop, are you reading our comments?
    The guilty clergy have pierced the the heart of our Lord, his Sacred Heart is searing with pain, to whom does He go?

    Reply

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