In the wake of this summer’s revelations of sexual abuse and cover-ups in the church, the Diocese of Camden has planned several evenings of prayer for the victims of abuse and reparation for the sins of the Church.
Bishop Dennis Sullivan will lead the first on Friday, Sept. 28, at Saint Agnes Church, Blackwood at 7 p.m. To make this opportunity available to those who cannot attend the Sept. 28 service, one week later, on Oct. 5, each of the five deaneries of the diocese will host local prayer services for the victims of abuse and reparation for the sins of the Church.
These will be held at 7 p.m. in the following parishes:
— Saint Joseph The Worker, Haddonfield
— Saint Andrew the Apostle, Gibbsboro
— Incarnation, Mantua
— Saint Katharine Drexel, Egg Harbor Township
— Christ The Good Shepherd, Vineland
— Our Lady Star of the Sea, Cape May
At press time, Pope Francis was scheduled to meet Sept. 13 with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, about the abuse crisis.
Cardinal DiNardo had said in a statement Aug. 16 that he was requesting a meeting at the Vatican following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on the mishandling of hundreds of cases of sexual abuse in six dioceses and after news was released that allegations of child sexual abuse committed by Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, the former cardinal-archbishop of Washington, were found credible.
The USCCB Executive Committee, Cardinal DiNardo had said, met recently and established three goals: “an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints.”
Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops’ conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention of the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.
The Vatican made the announcement Sept. 12 after the pope and members of his international Council of Cardinals wrapped up three days of meetings.
After hearing from his council, the pope “decided to convoke a meeting with the presidents of the bishops’ conferences of the Catholic Church on the theme of the protection of minors,” the council said in a written communique.
In the fallout of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Attorneys General in several states have announced plans to launch an investigation of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced on Sept. 6 that he is forming a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy within the Catholic dioceses of New Jersey, as well as any efforts to cover up such abuse. He also established a hotline to report allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, 855-363-6548.
“As we have with local law enforcement authorities, the Diocese of Camden will be open and cooperative with the New Jersey Attorney General and will readily comply with his requests for information and documents,” said diocesan spokesperson Michael Walsh.
Pat Brannigan, executive director of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, said, “We welcome the Attorney General’s investigation, and will cooperate fully. We believe cooperating with law enforcement is essential to restoring faith and trust. “
“New Jersey’s Catholics believe every parent and child deserve a safe environment to learn and explore their faith. This means that all spaces where teaching, worship, and ministry take place must be free from fear. There will be no compromise on this principle. This is essential,” Brannigan added. “We will remain vigilant to ensure the safety of every child we serve.”
Bishop Sullivan has written two recent columns about the abuse crisis. Commenting on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury findings, he wrote on Aug. 31: “While the report is an important reminder of shameful past failings in the Church — including in our own diocese — I want to let you know that we are doing everything possible to protect our children and shield them from harm.”
The following week, Sept. 7, he reiterated those points and again emphasized the need to reach out to victims. “As we acknowledge the truth of what happened and endure the pain this brings to the Body of Christ, we must reach out in deep solidarity to the wounded,” he wrote.
The Diocese of Camden reports any allegations of sexual abuse to the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The diocese abuse hotline is 1-800-964-6588.