WATERLOO (AP) – The Archbishop of Dubuque told priests and Roman Catholic church leaders they must recommit to their vows of holiness and virtue while regaining the faith of parishioners.
Archbishop Jerome Hanus told church leaders from the archdiocese to embrace victims of priest abuse and bridge the gap that has cut off so many parishioners.
“Our first priority must remain the told priests victims, the survivors and their families. It has taken the chtuch too long to get the message. We have struggled to place (the victims) first and we have failed in the past, ” he said.
“’The church should be a place where spiritual and other hurtts are comforted and healed. It is to be a place where people grow. Instead, for some it was quite the opposite.”
Hanus made the statements during a pastoral leadership study day in Waterloo on Tuesday.
Since Jan. 1, the archdiocese has received 30 allegations of abuse of minors by a priest, with 25 accusations coming from men and five from women. Of the 19 priests accused, 11 have died, Hanus said. None of the eight remaining are active in the church. The claims of abuse range from 1940 to 1970.
Hanus said the archdiocese investigated the claims with respect for both the rights of victims and those accused.
“To throw doubt on these allegations can seem like abuse again,” Hanus said. “As they are healing, the church must stand with them.”
For the church to help these victims heal, Hanus sald bishops and priests must re-evaluate their positions in the church and the tasks with which they may be forced to deal.
“The entire church looks to bishops and priests for leadership. A few bishops, by the way they have mishandled this issue, have done great damage to the credibility of the church,” Hanus said
“Bishops will have to show they understand what their responsibilities are,” he said. They may be forced to punish priests for their actions.
Many archbishops, bishops and priests chose to cover up the allegations, he said. A lack of sympathy for the victims has pushed many away from the church. A 55-year-old woman. who asked not to be named, told the group she was raped by a former priest at a Dubuque church when she was 12 years old.
Since then she has suffered through three bouts of depression.
“l have spent my adult lile trying to retrieve my spiritual connection,” she said. “There were long periods of time when I didn’t trust myself, my family or my God. But l said I was going to stay with the church until they got it right.”
Archbishop: Victims of sex abuse are top priority
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Saturday, October 26, 2002