Friday, June 13, 2003

Bishop O'Brien Responds

Press Room for the Diocese of Phoenix

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:

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