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Archbishop: ‘Institutional church has failed our people’

Acknowledging with sorrow the personal guilt of many priests and bishops in the sexual abuse of minors and abuse of power, Archbishop George J. Lucas said “the institutional church has failed our people in this area.”
“Not everything is a failure,” the archbishop said in a podcast recorded last month and excerpted in his “The Shepherd’s Voice” column. “But when we see these reports that go back many decades, we can see that there was a pattern of failure – both on the part of those who directly misused their office to abuse minors and other vulnerable people, and on the part of those who refused to deal with it in a compassionate, just and forthright way.”
 
On Sept. 5, archdiocesan officials said in a news release that in a letter received Sept. 4, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson requested archdiocesan investigative records that go back to Jan. 1, 1978. Archdiocesan officials said they were seeking further definition of the request’s scope, but they intended to cooperate with the request.
 
“We welcome accountability in our community,” Archbishop Lucas said in the release. “The truth is good for everyone. I see this as a real moment of grace.”
 
The attorney general has made similar requests of the Lincoln and Grand Island dioceses.
 
Since 2003, the archdiocese has had published policies for handling reports of sexual abuse, and it works collaboratively with law enforcement officials, the archbishop said. It also has safe environment training for children and background checks and training for adults who work with children.
 
“We also welcome any suggested improvements that would be helpful in making our safe environment program more effective,” the archbishop said. 
 
After reports surfaced in the Diocese of Lincoln of alleged abuse by priests, the attorney general’s office Aug. 16 encouraged people to reach law enforcement officials if they were victims of abuse.
 
In a letter all priests were asked to read to parishioners at weekend Masses Aug. 25-26, the archbishop said he is committed to fasting and praying each Thursday for mercy and healing for the church. He invited archdiocesan priests to join him.
 
The archbishop said he also will act with his brother bishops at their annual fall meeting in November in Baltimore to propose to Pope Francis a transparent and effective way for the church to hold bishops accountable for their actions. Only the pope is the immediate superior of a bishop, and fraternal correction among bishops has not been effective, the archbishop said.
 
Archbishop Lucas’ statements follow Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick’s resignation as a cardinal in June after allegations of sexual misconduct; a Pennsylvania grand jury report last month that spanned 70 years of clerical sex abuse in six dioceses; an Australian bishop convicted in May of concealing child sex abuse; and 34 bishops in May offering their resignations in a child sex and cover-up scandal in Chile.
 
Such reports have angered and frustrated parishioners, priests and others in the church, said Father Damien Cook, pastor of Christ the King in Omaha.
 
To help people take a concrete step forward as a community, Christ the King is holding a novena to Our Lady of Sorrows Sept. 6-14 from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
 
Prayers will be lifted up for those wounded by abuse, for the church and its leadership, and for a purification and new springtime in the church, Father Cook said.
 
“There is always a resurrection after the crucifixion,” he said.
 

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