Bishop O'Brien Responds
Bishop O'Brien's Pastoral Letter to Parishioners
June 7, 8, 2003
My Dearly Beloved in Christ,
This has been a painful and stressful week for our Church, and me personally.
Although I am a Bishop, with a calling from the Church, I am still a human being with emotions like anyone else. I would never want to pretend that my pain in any way super-cedes that of those who have been victimized by sexual abuse, particularly those who have been abused by priests.
I know many of you have questions because there have been conflicting news reports and that is due � in part � to the fact many do not understand our faith, church law and how the Roman Catholic Church serves people.
I know you have heard my many apologies to the victims of child abuse. I believe I can never apologize enough, and being sorry is not enough for those who have been harmed so terribly.
Do I feel responsible?
Yes. As the Bishop, whether or not I had only legal responsibility, the hurt and sorrow for any harm caused by priests or diocesan personnel is mine to shoulder.
You also know as Bishop I am the only one, based on church law, who can remove a priest from ministry or authorize a transfer to another parish.
I act on the recommendations of the Priest Personnel Board, which each year reviews priests� assignments. In the times when I�ve had difficult decisions to make, I made those transfers after spending much time in prayer. I felt in my heart that I had made the right decision and know that God knows I never moved a priest to hide his past sins or to endanger children.
When I became your Bishop, I had never heard the word pedophilia. I, like others, didn�t understand it was an incurable sickness.
I learned � just as law enforcement and health professionals � in the worst way by having to face the reality that our learning curve may have come at the expense of innocent children.
Wherever I have failed or misjudged, though unintentionally, I must acknowledge my mistake and I must carry the wounds of those who were harmed. I ask God, victims of sexual abuse and you, faithful Catholics, to forgive my imperfections.
As church, we have a common goal with the civil authorities to protect people. As church, we have the additional responsibility to nurture and protect their spiritual as well as their physical well-being.
The Catholic Church of Phoenix and Maricopa County Attorney�s Office want the same thing � to ensure that not only is this Diocese doing everything it can to provide a safe environment for Catholic children but for our community as a whole.
I promise you that I will never forget the past for it will remain my driving force toward the future.
I have been Bishop for two decades. I have committed my life to your service.
St. Paul calls us to be ministers of reconciliation. I assure you I want that above all else.
I believe we are taking creative and bold steps.
I ask for your prayers. As we celebrate Pentecost, I beg from God an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Faithfully Yours In Christ,
Most Rev. Bishop Thomas J. O�Brien
Bishop of Phoenix
Original article from the Diocese of Phoenix:
Press Release and Agreement between Bishop O'Brien and Rick Romley, Maricopa County Attorney: