Australian Prelate: Despite Crisis, Do Not Fear

Invites Estranged Catholics to Reflect on Church

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MELBOURNE, Australia, JULY 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Melbourne is encouraging the faithful to put aside all fear, despite the doubts and trials that have arisen in a time of crisis in the Church.

Archbishop Denis Hart wrote this in «A Pastoral Letter on Sexual Abuse,» dated July 1, in which he expressed his commitment to protect children in the archdiocese and help the Catholics in his care.

«We are all painfully aware that our Church is now going through a terrible time of suffering and self-examination,» the prelate stated. «The full extent of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and religious continues to emerge, not only here in Australia but throughout the world.»

«The scourge of sexual abuse continues to cause great distress and in many cases a crisis of faith amongst Catholics,» he acknowledged.

The archbishop wrote to the people, «At a time when our faith is sorely tested, let us remember together God’s word: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’ (Isaiah 43:1).»

«I express my deep sorrow and offer a sincere and unreserved apology to all those victims who have suffered the pain and humiliation of sexual abuse and to their families,» he stated.

«As your archbishop, I want you to know that I share in your desolation and sense of betrayal,» he added. «For me personally, this is one of the saddest times of my 43 years in the Catholic priesthood.»

Humility

Archbishop Hart affirmed: «With great humility we acknowledge that the crimes of the perpetrators have done great harm.

«We recognize that in the past we have not always dealt appropriately with offenders. We have had to learn from our mistakes, and continue to do so.»

He noted that «although it has been said that the incidence of Catholic priests abusing their office in this criminal manner is no greater than that which occurs amongst professional classes in the wider community, the community quite rightly expects a higher standard of morality for clergy.»

«Sexual crimes committed by clergy involve not only criminality but also hypocrisy and the betrayal of their sacred office and of those who trust them,» the prelate added.

He underlined the measures being taken by the archdiocese in order to address this problem. He reported that over the past 14 years, some 300 people have been compensated as victims of sexual abuse within the archdiocese.

The archbishop noted that the archdiocese has also been actively working to prevent future abuse, through procedures outlined in the 1996 Melbourne Response, child protection programs, and by rigorously screening candidates for the priesthood.

«I know that some of you will feel estranged or disaffected from the Church as the result of the current scandals,» he acknowledged.

«I can only invite you to reflect upon the vast majority of our upright and generous priests and religious who dedicate themselves to the care and pastoral needs of their people and the decent and dedicated Catholics whose selfless work in the interests of children, the sick and the underprivileged daily speaks of a generous faith and of a faithful Church,» Archbishop Hart said.

He continued, «To those of you who cry out with Jesus from the cross, ‘Why have you abandoned me?’ I rededicate myself and the archdiocese to serve and care pastorally for all of the Church’s people and the protection of all of its children.»

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On the Net:

Full text: http://www.cam.org.au/sexual-abuse/a-pastoral-letter-on-sexual-abuse.html

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