Catholic Vancouver Feb. 21, 2019

Vancouver review committee’s work nearing end: interim report

By Agnieszka Ruck

Pope Francis reviews papers at the meeting on the protection of minors in the Church at the Vatican.  Archbishop Miller released a letter outlining his commitment to transparency and justice on the eve of the summit. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

As bishops of the world converged in Rome for a three-day summit on clerical sexual abuse, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, has released a letter that provides an update on the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s efforts to right past wrongs.

“Too often in the past, victims have been allowed to fade away from our Church family without receiving the justice and support that they deserve,” Archbishop  Miller wrote in a statement to released Feb. 21.

Since new revelations of sexual abuse by U.S. clergy emerged last summer, Archbishop Miller said he felt called to “examine carefully our own history” and find ways to improve protections for vulnerable people in the Lower Mainland.

When the Pennsylvania revelations emerged last summer, the archbishop released an emotional statement expressing his outrage and sadness over the scandal. He said he felt devastated and promised a pastoral letter with plans for healing through prayer and penance for the sins committed against the victims.

The interim letter does not provide any names of priests with credible allegations against them, or the number of abuse cases logged in the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s history.

It does, though, state in broad strokes what Archbishop Miller has put into motion since last summer: a Case Review Committee made of abuse survivors, civil and canon law experts, and others, to study past abuse cases and release a report with recommendations; efforts to improve supports for victims; and a commitment to holding abusive priests accountable.

He writes the archdiocese will take “bold steps” toward transparency and holding abusers accountable, though details likely won’t be available until spring when the Case Review Committee completes its work and releases its report.

In the meantime, Archbishop Miller said he remains committed to “correcting any systemic flaws that contributed to abuse or cover-up,” and the archdiocese’s website has been updated to make it easier for victims to report abuse and access support.

Pope Francis called the Vatican summit on clergy abuse in Rome Feb. 21-24 specifically to address the abuse of minors.

“The abuse of minors by ordained ministers has inflicted wounds not only on the victims but also on their families, the clergy, the Church, the wider society, the perpetrators themselves, and the bishops,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, one of the bishops in attendance.

“We humbly and sorrowfully admit that wounds have been inflicted by us bishops on victims and in fact the entire body of Christ.”

The summit convened only a few days after retired Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington was laicized Feb. 16 after being found guilty of using his position to sexually abuse minors and adults. When he was laicized, McCarrick lost all rights and duties of a priest (including income) and may not celebrate the sacraments.