ALBANY, N.Y. (CNS) — Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger is calling for comprehensive church reform through an abuse task force focused on accompanying and supporting survivors of clergy sex abuse.
The newly developed task force will establish protocols for greater accountability and increased transparency at all levels of the diocese integrating the healing journey of survivors of clergy sex abuse and their families in the church.
“Most importantly, I want to offer ways for the whole family of our church to heal, because all of us have been incomplete as long as survivors and their family members have suffered in silence and isolation,” Bishop Scharfenberger said April 11 in announcing the new task force. “I know from experience that survivors can be ‘wounded healers’ offering wisdom and grace to the church and to the world.”
The task force will be comprised of diverse points of view and expertise, including survivors, parents, professionals, and community and parish leaders. The independent advisory group will be tasked with assessing and recommending upgrades to existing diocesan protocols and processes and to programs that support development of a trauma-informed pastoral outreach to survivors of clergy abuse and/or family members.
The goal of this advisory group is to evaluate past and present practices and to devise a path forward with regard to a holistic approach to survivor ministry and to the overall well-being of Catholics in the diocese.
The group will meet every four to six weeks for at least one year. Members will aim to have constructive dialogue and encourage healing forgiveness among clergy and laity. The group also will focus on temporal accountability by reviewing the diocesan Code of Conduct, financial transparency, restorative justice practices, protocols for announcing abuse allegations, due process and, above all, survivor support.
“The task force will serve as a sounding board to ensure that what we are hearing from our people can drive changes we must make to meet the challenges we face,” Bishop Scharfenberger said, adding how he believes the group will help integrate what the diocese has achieved in child protection practices and in its Diocesan Review Board with the full life of the church.
“We owe this to all our people,” he said, “because so many of our Catholics give generously of time and heart and treasure to minister in our diocese and in the world. We must help them as they help others encounter the Lord with trust and hope.”
“We are holding ourselves accountable before our people. No stone will be left unturned,” he added. The bishop also noted that the task force members represent a cross-section of people in the diocese “who have the fortitude, experience and wisdom to bear the burden of addressing these critical issues in this dark hour” and will share their findings and work in monthly reports published in The Evangelist, newspaper of the Albany Diocese.
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