Church in U.S. Is Working to Combat Abuse, Says Archbishop

Harry Flynn Counters Claims in Wake of Scandals

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NEW YORK, JUNE 4, 2002 ( Scandals involving priests have unleashed a barrage of criticism that «tragically» distorts the view of the Catholic Church, says a U.S. archbishop.

Writing in today´s Wall Street Journal, Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis, the chairman of the U.S. bishops´ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, acknowledged that the presence of sexual abusers in many professions «does not excuse abuse by a priest.»

Yet noting the media outcry against the Church, he writes: «It is astonishing that the devoted commitment of over 45,000 priests serving in this country has been given mere lip service — perhaps even mocked — as the media engage in a furious pursuit of those few who violated their trust.»

Archbishop Flynn countered common claims that the Church leadership has been more concerned about the «predators than their victims.»

«There is no question that some of the blame is deserved,» he writes. «But we urge our critics to take note of what we can and will do in this adversity and not only of what we have failed to do in the past.»

He continues: «Over the past decade, we have learned that we are facing a solvable problem. Bishops around the country have put in place programs that work. An article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this year found that over the past two decades, bishops have removed over 200 priest offenders.»

«Over half of the dioceses that responded to the Post-Dispatch´s survey said that their policy was to notify state authorities immediately when there was an allegation of sexual abuse by anyone working for the dioceses,» he adds. «At least four-fifths of those responding said that their dioceses rely on committees that include lay people rather than on the church hierarchy alone to assess such allegations.»

The archbishop continues: «Three fundamental facts have shaped our thinking as we take action to address the situation. We must be as open as possible about this problem that thrives in darkness; let openness help eradicate it. We must always act quickly; children and young people are too vulnerable to be left in danger. Finally, we must work in open partnership with law enforcement officials.»

Next week, at its semiannual meeting in Texas, the U.S. bishops´ conference is expected to act of proposals designed to avoid the abuse cases in the future.

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