“‘It’s not our shame to carry’: Victim of sexual abuse says Archdiocese of Regina on right path” & related articles

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Archdiocese issues open letter, apology to victims of sexual abuse on Ash Wednesday

CBC News

Pamela Walsh has pushed for several years to see the Archdiocese of Regina recognize victims of sexual abuse by clergy, and strive to prevent the problem in the future. Now she says changes are beginning. (CBC News)

It took decades for Pamela Walsh to conquer her shame and talk about being sexually abused by a priest when she was not even old enough to go to school.

She opened up for the first time in 2005, telling a priest in the Archdiocese of Regina. She says the conversation was quickly shut down.

“After a bit, I was basically shown the door to the Catholic Church, and told the Catholic Church could not and would not help me, and that I needed to leave,” she said.

She felt like a piece of garbage tossed aside.

“I was physically shown the door and it was locked behind me.”

The problems of clergy sexual abuse will not be solved quickly, says Walsh, who will only be satisfied when there are no further victims. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

Walsh said the Archdiocese of Regina did not listen to her for years, but that a shift is now occurring, one aimed at listening and empowering victims.

On Ash Wednesday, which begins the Lent season of penance and fasting, Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen issued an open letter to those impacted by clergy sexual abuse.

Bolen said the letter is meant to acknowledge not only that were people victimized, but that the church did not listen to victims.

“We hear you and we hear the depth of your pain. We hear what was done to you and we are profoundly sorry,” he said.

“We’re sorry for the abuse you suffered, that should have never happened.”

Archbishop Donald Bolen says a new approach draws on listening to victims of sexual abuse, and involving them in decision-making. (CBC News)

For Walsh, that acknowledgement is both the result of years of effort and the first step on a longer journey. Other letters issued from the church have spoken about regret and contrition, but this letter spoke directly to victims, she said.

“It’s very moving as a victim to have an archbishop say that. Very, very few archbishops have said that publicly and it’s a real testament to the work that has been done here,” she said.

Finding courage to come forward

Walsh said her abuse happened on and off from 1969 into the 1970s and took place when she met the priest in question during visits to a family home.

Many victims take their stories of sexual abuse to the grave, or share with very few people, she said, explaining she wants others to feel they can come forward to the church if they wish.

“This is a deeply shameful thing we live with, and it’s not our shame to carry,” she said. “Part of it is placing the shame on people it belongs [to].”

After the installation of Bolen as archbishop in 2016, Walsh brought forward her story again, telling him he had inherited a problem that still needed redressing.

This time, unlike others, she was heard.

“There’s been bumps in the road, but he’s listened,” she said.

Walsh says she came forward again in 2016, shortly after the installation ceremony of Bolen as archbishop. Unlike previous times she had come forward, in 2005 and 2011, this time, she was heard. (CBC)

Bolen said he’s learned from listening to victims who have slowly started coming forward about the devastation, the shame, the guilt and the erosion of self-confidence caused by abuse. Young people are shaken when a priest — a person of leadership and who comes to represent God in their hearts and minds — is the one to abuse them, he said.

Bolen said the church wants to create an environment where victims of sexual abuse can come forward if they wish.

“We’re taking a lot of steps to try and accompany them and to try and create a church which is welcoming and safe for everybody, for vulnerable people,for children, everybody,” he said.

Some of those steps include a program of education not just for priests and deacons, but for the parish and its organizations as well, revising policy to make it more victim-centred, and involving victims in its efforts to address and prevent sexual abuse.

“It’s a comprehensive effort to deal with this and respond to victims in a way we haven’t done before,” said Bolen.

The Catholic church is still grappling with clergy sex abuse scandals. Pope Francis, the first Latin American pope, held a summit on sexual abuse of minors in February, after he himself botched a well-known sex abuse coverup case in Chile last year.

For Walsh, the Archdiocese of Regina is showing a way forward, but there’s a long way to go. She won’t be satisfied until there are no further abuse and no victim is treated the way she was by the church.

“This is not just a small problem. This is a big problem,” she said, adding it’s impossible to know how many people have had their childhood and lives ripped apart by clergy sexual abuse.

She and Bolen both said they want to continue reaching out to victims and to show they are ready to walk with them.

“They don’t have to feel the shame and blame and pain of this alone, and live in darkness,” said Walsh.

About the Author

Janani Whitfield


‘Sincerely and profoundly sorry’: Archdiocese of Regina apologizes to victims of sexual abuse

CTV News  Regina

Published Friday, March 8, 2019 10:38AM CST

Archdiocese of Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen has written an open letter saying the church is “sincerely and profoundly sorry” to the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy.

The letter was addressed to anyone wounded by abuse by parish priests, pastors, members of religious communities and those abused at residential schools.

Bolen wrote he has met with victims of abuse and has “learned of the tragic legacy of clergy sexual abuse in our Archdiocese.” He also acknowledged many have chosen not to come forward and have “buried their secret deep within them.”

“This letter is an invitation to a healing journey, a journey that needs to involve the entire church,” Bolen said.

“Your wounds so painful and so slow to heal, point to our wounds of contradiction and unfaithfulness. As a community of faith, we were called to bring you into a place of light, but instead you were brought into a place of darkness.”

Bolen also wrote about abuse at Catholic residential schools.

“The abuse you suffered was linked to racism and was also combined with a disrespect for your culture, language and spirituality,” he wrote.

Bolen said the letter was focused on sexual abuse by clergy at the schools, adding victims suffered because of a “distorted use of power.”

He finished the letter by expressing his gratitude for those who have come forward.

“Apologizing is not enough. It is only a starting point.”

Last month, Pope Francis summoned 190 Catholic bishops and religious superiors to Rome for a summit on clergy sexual abuse.

The Vatican announced it would soon issue a new law creating a child protection policy for Vatican City State.

Francis also vowed he would confront abusers, end coverups by superiors and prioritize victims of abuse.

With files from The Associated Press


Regina Archbishop apologizes, acknowledges clergy abuse in open letter

“It’s a reality,” he said. “It’s not like it didn’t happen. There’s been abuse in the archdiocese and all over … even if there’s one, there’s a legacy.”

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Updated: March 8, 2019

The Archdiocese of Regina protected priests and members of the clergy who had potential claims of abuse filed against them, and showed “greater concern for the church’s public image” than for the people claiming abuse, according to an open letter it issued this week.

The archdiocese is encouraging victims of clergy or pastoral abuse to come forward with their stories as a way to start a healing process.

On Wednesday, Archbishop Donald Bolen issued the open letter “to all of those have been wounded by the effects of clergy sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Regina.”

He’s learned of the “tragic legacy” of abuse within the archdiocese and of victims who came forward with claims of abuse, who had “not been welcomed by church leaders, and who were left to experience more shame, guilt and a door closed to healing,” Bolen wrote.

“When families of victims called us to take action, we reacted defensively, protecting the clergy and showing greater concern for the church’s public image than for you, who by our action or inaction, were marginalized and silenced,” the three-page letter states.

“Your pain was often intensified by not being acknowledged, by being hidden and swept away as we tried to protect the reputation of the church.”

The letter offers numerous apologies, for the abuses which Bolen said included “collusion in covering up what happened,” for “silencing victims” and general misuse of power.

Rev. Brad Fahlman, the Bishop’s Delegate for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse, said the letter was made public on March 6, noting printed copies would have been available to people attending mass on Wednesday night.

While a legacy of clergy abuse does exist in the Archdiocese of Regina, the archdiocese is working to determine the extent of the issue, Fahlman said, noting some cases go back decades.

“It’s a reality,” he said. “It’s not like it didn’t happen. There’s been abuse in the archdiocese and all over … even if there’s one, there’s a legacy.”

In some cases, the abuse was a “one-time thing,” while in others, it was “more than that,” he said, adding he doesn’t have specific numbers of abuse cases that have been reported.

“There’s going to be information released on names and such, but that’s a work in progress with the diocese — but that’s the goal here,” he said. “That will be made public. I’m not sure of a timeline, but that will be happening.”

He said claims of clergy abuse were “poorly handled” in the past, touching on practices like moving priests from one parish to the other if they were accused of abuse. While he doesn’t know if that kind of practice took place in Saskatchewan, there was a “lack of accountability” across the board, he said.

“They were removed and removed from ministry and the diocese, but I can’t speak beyond that. I don’t know what happened after that,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s just a matter of the victims not being understood properly and not being consulted properly and being re-victimized through the process of trying to deal with it,” he added.

The letter also acknowledges people for whom the action “has come too late,” because they are no longer living.

One of the people who heard the letter read aloud at a mass on Wednesday was University of Regina associate professor Jim Farney, head of the department of politics and international studies.

Farney, who disclosed that his wife previously worked for the archdiocese, called the letter a “big step forward” in the sense that it’s a “very fulsome apology.” He said the new stance may result in more people coming forward, but noted there are many factors involved.

“The first caveat is that everybody in the institution buy and accept how serious this stuff is and that you don’t get cases where people have been abused, go to a parish priest, say, and he continues business as normal or goes to the archdiocesan office and they continue business as normal,” Farney said.

“Everyone in the organization has to buy and live the archbishop’s line.”

Bolen’s letter said the apologies are only a starting point.

“We want to make our apology real by making changes which prevent others from being abused and by taking steps so that your encounters with the church today are experiences of healing and compassion,” he wrote. “We have a long journey ahead.”




Regina archdiocese apologizes for clergy sexual abuse

Global News

The Archdiocese of Regina issued a formal apology for clergy sex abuse, and is wanting to work with their whole community on a long healing journey.

The Archdiocese of Regina issued a formal apology for clergy sex abuse, and is wanting to work with their whole community on a long healing journey.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

The Archdiocese of Regina issued a written apology for instances of clergy sex abuse on Ash Wednesday. This comes amid a global focus on abuse in the church.

“Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to meet with some of you who were hurt deeply by the church, and have learned of the tragic legacy of clergy sexual abuse in our archdiocese,” Regina archbishop Donald Bolen wrote.

“I have also heard from victims who had come forward, had not been welcomed by church leaders, and who were left to experience more shame, guilt, and a door closed to healing. Many have chosen not to relate their experience to anyone and have buried their secret deep within them.”

The apology took time to name sources of abuse, whether it was a parish priest, pastor, member of the community or in Indigenous residential schools.

Pope Francis held a four-day sexual abuse prevention summit in February.

“Listen to the cry of the young, who want justice,” Francis told the gathering of 190 church leaders on Feb. 21.

“The holy people of God are watching and expect not just simple and obvious condemnations, but efficient and concrete measures to be established.”

In his address, Dolen wrote that the entire Catholic community needs to come together to accomplish the healing goal. He also acknowledged past failings to properly deal with abuse concerns, saying the church acted defensively in the past, worrying more about public image than the victims.

“For the times when the church has slammed the door on you, not wanting to hear your painful truth, not wanting to face the scourge of abuse, we are sorry,” Bolen wrote.

“For our failures in acknowledging our transgressions, for collusion in covering up what happened and for silencing victims, we are sorry. For our misuse of power, and for the clericalism which helped to create a context wherein abuse was allowed to happen and be covered up, we are sorry.”

The archdiocese has a section on their website devoted to handling reports of clergy abuse. The section includes a letter from the Pope calling on the church to better address abuse allegations.

It also includes a video and a written message from Reverend Brad Fahlman, the archdiocese’s delegate for victims of clergy sexual abuse. This job involves filing complaints and helping victims find the supports they need.

Global News in the process of scheduling an interview with Fahlman.

-With files from The Associated Press


2 Responses to “‘It’s not our shame to carry’: Victim of sexual abuse says Archdiocese of Regina on right path” & related articles

  1. Leona says:

    Will the archdiocese be posting a list of credibly accused clergy? Most likely not. My understanding from Archbishop Miller here in Vancouver, is that unless the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops all agree, no diocese will post names. Apparently, collegiality is more important than ensuring the safety of the vulnerable. I am convinced that the names that we see on Sylvia’s site are only the tip of the iceberg. Attorney’s general through their raids of dioceses in the U.S. have discovered many clergy who were credibly accused that have never been reported. When church officials fail to disclose names, they leave victims questioning themselves, wondering if they were the only ones. Diocesan officials have a responsibility to let their parishioners know if they have been exposed to a predator. Until such time as the bishops post names, I’ll see letters and statements as only paying lip service to the problem.

    • bc says:

      a responsibility to let their parishioners know if they have been exposed to a predator
      Indeed. In Ontario and in Québec victims are set to sue Dioceses and Bishops for their negligence in not disclosing as per
      Doe v. Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality) Commissioners of Police, 1998 CanLII 14826 (ON SC) It`s the real reason why Mme. Trahan was retained by the Dioceses in Montreal: not to find clerical abusers; but to intercept victims before they go to talk to civil litigators.

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