Let me reassure, emphatically so, that I am committed to the safety of our young people when they are involved in Church ministries both locally and nationally.
I have served as archbishop since 2008. As your archbishop I report accusations of sexual misconduct with minors to civil authorities and cooperate fully with them.
Anyone with a substantiated accusation of misconduct with minors is removed from ministry and is not reassigned.
I state this because I realize the people of our archdiocese want to know that our kids are safe in Church ministries. I understand. I am committed to this and our archdiocesan policy for the protection of our kids requires this.
Let me reiterate and reaffirm the policies of the archdiocese which have been in place since 2003.
When I first arrived more than 10 years ago to serve as archbishop, I immediately made certain that the archdiocesan child protection policy was posted on the archdiocesan website. (mobarch.org) In addition to being posted on the website for more than 10 years, copies of the policy are made available to all employees and volunteers who do not have internet access.
Every volunteer with contact with minors and all employees have a background check and then are trained in child protection and required to participate in an annual retraining. Every child in our Catholic schools, parish youth groups, and parish religious education programs receives an annual training in how to recognize, avoid, and report misconduct.
The archdiocese has a Director of Child Protection and has had someone in this ministry since 2003. Mrs. Ginger Koppersmith has served in this role for the past 2 years and is a full-time employee. She receives accusations of misconduct with minors involving clergy, employees, or volunteers. She assists the alleged victim in making the accusations and investigates the accusation. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number is 251-434-1559. Allegations of misconduct with minors are reported to civil authorities.
Along with the Director of Child Protection, there is an Independent Review Board made up of people, most of whom do not work for the archdiocese, and who come from a variety of backgrounds. The role of this Board is to advise the Director of Child Protection in addressing allegations of misconduct. The reports from the Director of Child Protection and the Board are submitted to the archbishop and help to determine what should be done in handling the accusation.
An annual audit by an outside national firm is conducted to make certain that the archdiocese is following the policy to which it has committed itself in order to protect minors.
Since this summer, the Independent Review Board, originally established to consider allegations of misconduct with minors, will now also advise in matters involving accusations of misconduct with adults.
Three clarifications should be kept in mind:
- No bishop has authority over another bishop. An archbishop, for example, has no authority over a bishop. Every bishop is answerable only to the Pope.
- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has no authority over any bishop. An action by the USCCB is only binding on a bishop if it is approved by the Pope.
- The Nuncio is the representative of the Vatican. He does not represent nor answer to the bishops of the US
We will continue to follow these policies but the sad events of the past four months, especially with the accusations against Archbishop McCarrick, have brought the need for action beyond our archdiocese. There needs to be a credible way in which accusations may be brought against a bishop for misconduct with minors or adults. The current manner in which to make a complaint against a bishop regarding sexual misconduct is to contact the Nuncio (the Pope’s representative in the United States). Most people are probably not aware that there is such a person, so it appears necessary to have a well-publicized “hotline,” handled by an independent entity, which people may call so that complaints may more easily be submitted to the Nuncio. A number of bishops have already recommended this and I hope it will be placed before the body of bishops at our annual meeting in November. This needs to be done. It is also my hope that the Nuncio would avail the help of independent persons to advise him in handling complaints, similar to the independent review boards that bishops use on the diocesan level.
In addition, the questions surrounding the matter of Archbishop McCarrick have raised doubts as to whether bishops are held accountable. People want to know that they can trust Church leadership but the profound disappointment of the past several weeks has created a deep skepticism. There is a concern that rot exists in the Church and even at high levels of Church leadership. In order to repair the scandal and promote justice, an investigation, preferably lay-led, into the Archbishop McCarrick situation is necessary. I support the statement of Cardinal DiNardo, President of the USCCB, where he stated; “The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusations and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.” As some other bishops have recommended as well, there is a need for an objective investigation. Efforts to address a problem are difficult to undertake until the problem and its root causes are identified. The people of the Church expect and deserve answers.
In the meantime, one of the most frustrating things for many people is that there may be little that the average Catholic can constructively do to address the state of the Church, save one, we can make the Church holy. Despite all the crises in the Church, despite all the failures and sins of her leaders, despite all our weaknesses and sins as a people, God guides the Church. In our daily lives, in our parishes, in our homes, in our hearts, we are called to bring holiness into the world by the words we use, the love we show, the values we live by, the forgiveness we offer, in short, by the way we live our lives. Evil will always be present in our Church as long as the members of the Church are sinful human beings. But let us not be divided by the Evil One. It is for us sinful human beings, with God’s help, to seek holiness.