The Ottawa Sun
First posted:Archbishop Terrence Prendergast
Archibishop Terrence Prendergast, who leads the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa.
The news stories were shocking. We saw in black and white a list of Ottawa priests implicated in the sexual abuse of minors published in the city’s English-language dailies.
Yet, there were not many surprises in the published articles, as people in Ottawa have heard the stories in the news of abuse and the conviction of priests over the years as they were reported. Rather, the shock came from seeing all the details displayed in one place. This laid out the enormity of the evil committed and the need for ongoing healing.
What are we to make of this? It is an opportunity for me, as the leader of the archdiocesan Catholic community, to reassure people that the procedures for handling these offences in place today are not what they were in the past. We have learned from errors in the past and are constantly striving to improve how to create safe environments for all.
In recent years, we began a process in our parishes called Responsible Ministry in part to ensure the safety of all persons receiving and delivering ministry — with special attention paid particularly to minors and other vulnerable persons who come to our parishes for pastoral care from our priests, deacons, lay staff and volunteers. In addition, in September 2015, the Archdiocese of Ottawa adopted a Code of Pastoral Conduct that everyone in ministry is to commit to by signing their agreement to follow the terms of the Code.
This shocking moment can become a moment of purification for us in the Catholic community and serve to remind us to keep vigilant in protecting the vulnerable, especially children. We will continue to commit to making sure that our protocols for safety and security are being followed and are effective.
We Catholics may see in this reminder of our past failures a call from God to our Church to let go of all that does not come from the teaching and life of Jesus Christ, the Lord who loves, forgives, heals and above all is merciful.
The situation in which we find ourselves humbles us all, making us feel raw in our exposure to public vilification and scorn. Still, the ties of communion among us Catholics will help us in this moment of testing. God is inviting us to come to grips with our sinfulness so that we can strive together towards a better future.
The task now is to get on with the valiant and caring service of our hard-working priests and the deacons, religious workers and the laity who collaborate with them. Our ministry is to accompany God’s people in the joys and sorrows of their journey through life, strengthening them by the sacraments and sharing the Gospel message with others.
Some people have asked me how our priests are feeling these days. There was a Pastoral Day on Thursday and this gave us an opportunity to share our experience about being depicted in a negative light, with the very image of the priest as a servant of God under suspicion.
In reality, the priests’ reactions are mixed, like those of the faithful laity: some feeling great sadness, others shame, many a wounded sense of “déjà vu.” Some manifest optimism despite the present pain drawn from the fact that we are indeed doing many good things despite this negative publicity, while others quietly remain at their posts in ministry seeking the good of God’s people. They have read the Code of Pastoral Conduct issued in the fall and have agreed to abide by it. They are committed to loving God and serving His people to the best of their ability.
We are learning from past failures — sins against the innocent — and we all wish we could undo them. Regrettably, all we can do at this moment is hang our heads in shame at the past and commit ourselves to making the necessary changes to improve, raising our hands to help wherever we can. Past mistakes in handling errant priests cannot be undone, but we can and do wish to do better in the future and to heal.
With God’s help and the contribution of our wonderful priests, we will do better.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast is the leader of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa
Archbishop: Church must do better, help to heal
Published on: May 22, 2016 | Last Updated: May 22, 2016 9:21 AM EDT
Megan Gillis, Postmedia
The city’s archbishop vows that “we will do better” in tackling sexual abuse in the church.
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast makes the comment in a column in the Ottawa Sun, in the wake of a Postmedia series about historic abuse by local Catholic clergy published last week.
Prendergast calls the articles “shocking” despite containing “not many surprises,” the impact coming from “seeing all the details displayed in one place.”
“They laid out the enormity of the evil committed and the need for ongoing healing,” Prendergast wrote, later adding that “the situation in which we find ourselves humbles us all, making us feel raw in our exposure to public vilification and scorn.
“Still, the ties of communion among us Catholics will help us in this moment of testing. God is inviting us to come to grips with our sinfulness so that we can strive together towards a better future.”
A Postmedia analysis of court records, newspaper files and Sylvia’s Site, which is devoted to tracking the sex abuse scandal in Canada, revealed that a total of 11 Ottawa priests were connected to sexual abuse through criminal and civil actions. It includes three previously unreported cases.
- Abuse victim speaks for first time, demands to know why priest not defrocked
- Special report: Insurance lawsuit reveals secrets of Ottawa’s clergy abuse scandal
- Editorial: Diocese silence on sexual abuse must end
- Special report: Priest admits to sexual abuse for first time in Citizen interview
There are at least 41 acknowledged local victims but that represents only cases with paper trails. The Archdiocese of Ottawa declined to produce its own accounting of those harmed.
Recently filed court documents show that it has settled seven of 12 sexual abuse lawsuits filed since 2011 and paid nearly $600,000 in compensation to victims abused by priests between 1958 and 1985. Five other claimants are seeking $7.4 million.
In several cases investigated by Postmedia, there are allegations that other priests and even former archbishops were told of the abuse at the time.
Seeking comment, Postmedia sent an 11-point memo to the Archdiocese of Ottawa about the series but a spokesman said it “prefers not to comment at this time.”
Now Prendergast, who was installed as archbishop in 2007 and oversees more than 100 parishes, said in his column that it is an opportunity for him as leader of the local Catholic community to reassure people.
“The procedures for handling these offences in place today are not what they were in the past,” he wrote. “We have learned from errors in the past and are constantly striving to improve how to create safe environments for all.”
Prendergast wrote that he is asked how the church’s priests are feeling and that they had the opportunity at an event Thursday to share their experiences.
Like their flock, priests’ reactions are mixed, Prendergast wrote, with “some feeling great sadness, others shame, many a wounded sense of déjà vu.”
All have agreed to follow the Code of Pastoral Conduct issued last fall, while the archdiocese commits to making sure safety protocols work and are being followed, according to the archbishop.
The church has learned from past failures — Prendergast called them “sins against the innocent” — but can’t undo them.
“Regrettably, all we can do at this moment is hang our heads in shame at the past and commit ourselves to making the necessary changes to improve, raising our hands to help wherever we can,” he wrote.
“Past mistakes in handling errant priests cannot be undone, but we can and do wish to do better in the future and to heal.