Published October 4, 2018 | En Español
ATLANTA—In the weeks since scandals related to former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick and troubling revelations of heinous abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses have come to light in the national media, many parishioners in churches across the Atlanta Archdiocese have met together for prayer and to share their concerns in an open or town hall format. Questions from these sessions have been sent from local parishes to Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, who answered these and more.
Following are the first such questions and their answers, which represent many of the topics about which people want to know more. Additional such Q&As from Archbishop Gregory will be forthcoming in the next issues of The Georgia Bulletin.
If your parish conversations have generated additional questions not answered here and the next ones to come, please submit them to your parish office and have them sent to Archbishop Gregory’s office at the Chancery in Smyrna.
When leaders of our faith are involved in scandals and cover-ups, and those responsible have not always been held accountable or punished, how can we communicate and defend our Catholic faith to our children and to those who do not share our faith?
Our Catholic faith is not based on any individual beyond Jesus Christ Himself. Throughout the history of the Church, there have been dishonest and immoral clerics and the faith of the Church has endured and in fact increased. The Church, like other institutions, has an identity beyond the character of individuals. We are a Church of sinners and saints. The same Church that is now suffering from the horrible activities of some individuals is also the Church who has produced great saints in every age, culture and nation. The difference from other institutions is that the Church is both divine and human, founded by our Lord for the sake of the Gospel and the salvation of the human race. Jesus did not promise that the lives of Christians and of the Church’s leaders would be free from sin and evil. What He did promise was the Holy Spirit, His continued presence and guidance of the Church, and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church, despite any evil within and without. Our trust is in the Lord.
What steps will you take immediately to put together a lay review board?
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has had a predominantly lay Advisory Board since 2002. This board meets with me quarterly and includes laypersons with legal and therapeutic expertise, as well as an individual who has had personal experience of a family member who has been abused. There is always one priest assigned to the board to bring a pastoral perspective. Allegations involving clergy who have served or are serving in the Archdiocese are immediately relayed to the Advisory Board. Allegations involving lay employees and volunteers are reviewed through our Office of Human Resources and our Office of Child and Youth Protection. Every allegation is turned over to civil authorities. The importance of this review board and the leadership of the laity cannot be overstated. I am continuing to consult with our Advisory Board and other laity about further steps the Archdiocese can take to continue to advance a culture of transparency, accountability, and safe environments for all.
Are there individuals with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors currently in ministry within the Archdiocese of Atlanta?
There is no cleric currently serving in the Archdiocese of Atlanta who has a substantiated claim of the abuse of a minor. During my service as your Archbishop, every allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy has been reviewed by our Advisory Board, comprised primarily of lay people, and immediately reported to civil authorities. When an allegation against a cleric who is a member of a religious order has been raised, the religious authority has been notified and, where the allegation has been substantiated, the cleric has been dismissed from service in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. There have been historical cases that predate my service and these too have been reviewed by the Advisory Board. In all cases, we have reached out to those who have raised the allegations with an offer of counseling and/or other assistance.