NEW YORK (CNS) — “At the heart” of the Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis “is the painful, sinful and illegal harm done to children by those whom they should have been able to trust,” said Jesuit Father John J. Cecero, provincial of the Society of Jesus’ Northeast province in the United States.
“We did not know any best practices to handle these violations many decades ago and regrettably made mistakes along the way,” he said in a statement Jan. 15.
“What winds up being a very shameful history for the church at large was made clear by investigative reporting in Boston in 2002,” he said, recalling when clergy sexual abuse exploded into the public consciousness.
He made the comments in releasing a list of any Jesuit in the province who has had a credible allegation of abuse against a minor or vulnerable adult since 1950. He noted that for more than 15 years there have been no new cases in the province.
In making the list public, Father Cecero said, he hopes “to contribute to healing from the pain and anger caused by clergy sex abuse and the lack of accountability and transparency on the part of church leadership.
The list, available online, has 50 names on it. It details each man’s assignment or assignments, the years he served at each one, when he was credibly accused of abuse and the nature of the alleged abuse, and the subsequent status of his ministry. Two on the list were incarcerated; in some cases the Jesuit left the order or was laicized. Many of the men are deceased.
Father Cecero noted that Northeast province is composed of what were separate provinces at various periods over the past 70 years: Buffalo in the 1960s; New England and New York were separate until 2014. “This list includes Jesuits who belonged to any of those provinces,” he said.
In releasing its list, the Northeast province joined three other Jesuit provinces in doing so; the Maryland province, based in Towson, released its list Dec. 17; the West province, based in Portland, Oregon, and the Central and Southern province, based in St. Louis, released their lists Dec. 7.
The adoption by the bishops of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” in Dallas in June 2002 “allowed us to codify and implement best practices” in addressing abuse by clergy and other church workers, Father Cecero said.
“Under the watchful eye of our accreditation agency, Praesidium Inc., we have implemented these best practices for more than 15 years and can be grateful, although no less vigilant, that there have been no new cases of abuse of minors or vulnerable adults in the Northeast province,” he said.
“Changed practices do not erase past history,” the provincial continued. “The list I publish today notes criminal and sinful failures in the pastoral care of children. The majority of these allegations were made years or even decades after abuse occurred.
“This list includes any allegations where the offense was admitted by a Jesuit, or where it was established as credible after an investigation,” he said.
Father Cecero added: “Any living Jesuit with a credible allegation of abuse is removed from ministry and assigned to a community that does not serve minors where he lives under a closely monitored safety plan. Any case of abuse is shocking and a profound failure. Jesuits who have offended can no longer offend. Safeguards put in place since 2002 help create safe environments for everyone.”
On behalf of all Jesuits of the province, Father Cecero apologized “for any of our brothers who have committed crimes of abuse and pledge to work to provide safe environments for all to whom we minister and to offer support and possibilities for healing to victims.”
He urged anyone who has experienced abuse by a Jesuit to contact the province’s victim assistance coordinator, Kristin Austin, by calling (443) 370-6357 or sending an email to UNEadvocacy@jesuits.org. “She will offer both compassion and confidentiality,” the priest said.
“These have been trying times for our church, and the body of Christ knows the suffering of its Lord in real ways,” Father Cecero said in concluding his statement. “May we together pray for healing that our wounds may be transformed by the God of love.”
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