Dear Padre Serra Parishioners,
If you were unable to attend Mass on August 25-26 liturgies, I encourage you to listen to my homily, where I addressed the issue of abuse directly. Padre Serra Parish takes the safety and security of our young parishioners very seriously.
We have a Parish Safeguard the Children Committee that serves as the eyes, ears and voice for children and the vulnerable in our community. Over the last several years, the committee has worked with the parish leadership and staff to provide a safe environment for our children, resulting in a number of improvements and the implementation of important policies:
Campus improvements, with our children’s safety in mind:
Programs in which the parish participates:
Some safeguard practices specific to Padre Serra include:
Our Safeguard the Children Committee is comprised of PSP staff and parishioners credentialed in clinical psychology, marriage & family therapy, VIRTUS® training facilitators, retired emergency services personnel, and concerned parents. For more information about the PSP Safeguard the Children Committee and our ongoing efforts, please contact Nancy Jorgesen at firstname.lastname@example.org (805) 482·6417 x348 or visit Parish Safeguard the Children.
As your priest and pastor, know that I truly grieve for all harm done by clergy or lay leaders, for every child wounded in this manner by anyone, for every adult whose faith has been harmed. I still hold that, together, with God as our strength, we can revitalize our Church and help those hurting heal in God’s loving grace.
Questions that I have been asked about the abuse scandal:
Are priests still harming children?
I wish that I could guarantee that no one would ever abuse a child again. We never escape our human nature, however, and broken behavior is an inevitable part of our human story. I do promise that we are doing everything we can to ensure that it doesn’t happen here by eliminating situations where young people are most vulnerable. If we eliminate opportunities for bad behavior, we can also drastically reduce the crimes that can only occur in secret.
There is evidence that this approach is working. Incidences of abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States began to drop off dramatically in the early to mid-1980s. The huge abuse numbers were mostly in the 60s and 70s, and possibly to a lesser extent in the 50s.
Is the Church protecting people who abused parishioners in the past?
I have good reason to believe that the Los Angeles Archdiocese leadership is sincerely committed to identify, remove and punish all offenders from ministry. It saddens me to say that there has been recent news of decades-long cover-ups in some dioceses in Pennsylvania, and there will inevitably be others. As painful as this process is, it’s only by unearthing and eliminating these weak links that we can also begin healing and making our Church stronger.
Is the abuse problem unique to the Catholic Church?
No, the abuse in the Catholic Church is not exceptional. It parallels, and apparently by proportionate amounts, child abuse in the Protestant, Jewish and Islamic clergy, according to the insurance companies that cover this. It is only more egregious among Catholics to the extent that when we take strong stands on appropriate sexual behavior, and priests disregard those teachings, it reeks of hypocrisy.
What is the Church doing to stop abuse?
Our focus is on eliminating the environment for abuse to take place. Specifically, these crimes normally happen in secluded places, and in private. The archdiocese of Los Angeles has committed itself to implementing strict standards: two adults, always, in every room with children; windows on classroom doors, offices and in confessionals; email and social media protocols for those who work with minors; dutiful reporting of grooming or abuse to all authorities, including the police; monitoring the campus to eliminate places where abuse could take place; providing strict protocols for transporting minors in vehicles, etc.
Are my donations to the church paying for lawsuit settlements?
Each parish supports the archdiocese through a tax of normal, undesignated gifts. While the majority of that tax goes to support the work of the archdiocese, a portion of it may have gone toward resolving the diocesan debt from the settlement in the past. When parishioners inform the parish that they don’t want any of their offerings to go to the archdiocese, we consider that a designated gift and respect their wishes…but they have to request that. Many did when the scandals in Los Angeles surfaced. Few request that now.
Please consider the following before restricting your donations. The archdiocese was only able to lend $2.7 million to us at very low rates, when we needed it to pay off our debt for the Serra Center, because of the financial support the archdiocese receives from all the parishes. Those who don’t support the archdiocese ought not ask for help from it, either. All of us who use the Serra Center have benefited greatly from the archdiocese’s financial help.
What are our personal responsibilities as parishioners?
We need to provide love, support and understanding to the survivors of sexual assault. We have fellow parishioners here at Padre Serra who have been harmed in other parishes, and others who have been victimized in other settings, in their homes and schools. This is a terrible time for all of them. They are innocent and yet often face a lifetime of healing. We must work as a community to protect all children from those with evil intent. We can prepare ourselves by getting VIRTUS® certified and be an active participant/parent volunteer at parish activities. All parishioners should report any credible suspicions about child abuse to the authorities.
It is important to seek help if you or someone you know is in need of assistance. Do not suffer in silence. You may contact a PSP staff member (805) 482·6417 or call the Victims Assistance Ministry at (800) 355·2545 or Ventura County Adult & Child Abuse Hotline (805) 654·3200.