An overview of Bishop Burbidge’s continued response to the sexual abuse crisis

By Billy Atwell – Chief Communications Officer for the Diocese of Arlington.

As many are aware, the Diocese of Arlington has been working actively to address many of the compelling questions that have arisen following the allegations related to Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the revelations of sexual abuse and negligence that emerged from the Pennsylvania grand jury report. Using numerous platforms, Bishop Burbidge has addressed these issues on many occasions over the past several months and restated his commitment to assist in the healing of all victims of sexual abuse.

While much has been done, more is needed. Many of the faithful lack trust in the Church’s leadership and rightfully want transparency regarding clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse against a minor.

In a measure of due diligence, Bishop Burbidge commissioned a review of files related to priests and deacons who have served, and are serving, in our Diocese. At the conclusion of this review, a list of all priests and deacons (including those no longer in ministry) who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor will be published.

Our prayer is that publishing the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors will bring victims healing and consolation in the Lord and inspire those who have not yet come forward to tell their story. It is our hope that this decision will help assure the faithful of the Diocese’s commitment to accountability.

Similar file reviews have been conducted in the past. In 2003, in connection with the John Jay Study, the Diocese conducted a thorough review of the files of all priests, going back to the establishment of the Diocese, and reported the number of credible accusations to that study.

In 2011, the Diocese employed an independent investigator to conduct a similar review of the files of all priests active in the Diocese to ensure that no past allegations had been overlooked, that current diocesan leadership was aware of all relevant matters, and that appropriate reports had been made to law enforcement in every instance.

This decision is by no means the first action the Diocese or Bishop Burbidge has taken following allegations of sexual abuse and negligence from the grand jury report in Pennsylvania and the credible and substantiated allegations regarding Archbishop McCarrick. Here is a summary of some of those actions (all public statements are available at ArlingtonDiocese.org/ChildProtection):

On Aug. 26, Bishop Burbidge celebrated and preached a public Mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More for victims of sexual abuse and their continued healing.

Bishop Burbidge continues to meet with victims of sexual abuse through individual appointments and through an ongoing support group program facilitated by the Diocese.

Prior to beginning a new year of formation, Bishop Burbidge met with seminarians to express his deep commitment to their well-being as they continue their vocational discernment. They had a frank, open and respectful dialogue regarding the critical issues within our Church.

On Sept. 19, Bishop Burbidge sent a letter to all parents of seminarians, restating his commitment to the protection of their sons and expressing his confidence in the seminaries to which the Diocese send them for formation.

A letter from Bishop Burbidge to the Catholic faithful was disseminated through the parishes the weekend of Aug. 25-26.

Local television stations interviewed Bishop Burbidge and other diocesan officials, offering their thoughts about the current crisis, the Bishop’s message to victims, and what the Diocese believes needs to change in order to regain the confidence of the Catholic faithful.

In episodes 11151617, and 18 of the Walk Humbly Podcast, Bishop Burbidge has addressed the public scandals, offered his continued support to victims, and explained the task ahead for the USCCB in ensuring greater accountability for bishops in their personal behavior and their handling of allegations of sexual abuse. (On Sept. 19, the USCCB’s Administrative Committee announced actions it will take.)

During a recent deanery meeting with priests, Bishop Burbidge focused on the issues facing our Church and discussed ways even more can be done to protect the faithful and help victims heal. He has six remaining deanery meetings with priests, as well as our upcoming Priest Study Day, which will allow time to join in prayer and to discuss these critical matters.

Meetings are scheduled with Bishop Burbidge and our deacons and consecrated women religious, during which he will seek their feedback and input regarding what we have done so far and what should be done going forward.

Bishop Burbidge will invite lay parish leaders to discuss the sex abuse crisis and its impact on our parishes and schools, while seeking advice for how we move forward as a diocese.

On Sept. 10, Bishop Burbidge met and consulted with the Diocesan Review Board. He is ever grateful to the lay men and women, priests, and consecrated religious who serve on this board for the expertise and wisdom they offer to him and our Diocese.

At Bishop Burbidge’s direction, the Office of Divine Worship offered liturgical resources and suggestions to parishes, inviting the faithful to fervent prayer for all victims and for our Church.

Going forward, the Diocese will continue to communicate all the steps taken to protect the vulnerable and to comfort those who have suffered such unspeakable crimes. In the coming weeks, the Diocese will routinely publish articles about the various aspects of our Child Protection and Victim Assistance Programs.

The Diocese asks all people of good will to offer their prayers that the Church will be purified and made stronger by acknowledging the sad truth of what has occurred, recommitting to greater accountability, and continuing to work for the good of God’s people in every respect.

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