A Statement by Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.: The Truth Will Set Us Free
- August 24th, 2018 • Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.
August 24, 2018
Statement by Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.
The Truth Will Set Us Free
With the shocking revelations this summer about the accusations of sexual abuse against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, followed by the release of the Grand Jury report on decades of horrific clerical sexual abuse and its coverup in six Pennsylvania dioceses, this is a particularly difficult and painful moment to be a faithful Catholic.
I, and my brother bishops must be guided by the words of Jesus who said: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). This means confronting without equivocation or excuses the “moral catastrophe” of all that has gone so terribly, terribly wrong in our beloved Church.
Preying on children and the most vulnerable in our society, and enabling this to happen, is evil. It is criminal and it is mortally sinful. Those of us who are leaders in the Church must sincerely repent and do penance for what Pope Francis condemns as atrocities. As the People of God, we must heed the Holy Father’s summons to stand in solidarity with those who have been victimized and “fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption.”
The place to begin is with those who have been victimized by abusive bishops, priests, deacons and lay ministers. For so many survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, whose trust was violated and whose innocence was torn away from them, the trauma they experienced has left life-long scars. If you have been harmed as a child, a young person or an adult by a bishop, priest, deacon or lay minister, you deserve to be heard and to receive justice and healing. What was done to you was not your fault. I sincerely apologize for the harm inflicted on you. I am willing to meet with you and listen to you.
If you have experienced or witnessed abusive behavior by anyone in ministry, I urge you to please contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator, Robbie Izzard, at 907-586-2227 extension 25. If you believe a crime has been committed - and sexual abuse of a minor is a serious crime - please report it immediately to law enforcement.
As a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I support proposals for an independent inquest into our collective failure to protect children and young people. I support a transparent accounting of the entire story of the harm done to young people and vulnerable adults. I support developing structures of protection and accountability with the involvement of the laity that will apply to our bishops and cardinals as well as our priests and deacons. Together with the Diocesan Review Board, I will review all of our current safe environment policies in this diocese to update them and as necessary, strengthen and improve them.
More effective policies and procedures are vitally important but they are not sufficient. We are in the midst of a spiritual crisis resulting from the failure of a number of clergy to be faithful to their commitment to live chaste, celibate lives and the tolerance of immoral sexual behavior and lifestyle by clerics. We must hold all ordained ministers accountable to faithfully live the commitments they had freely chosen to embrace at their vows and/or ordination.
Jesus teaches us: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Every bishop is called to imitate Jesus the Good Shepherd, in both his manner of life and in his zeal to protect those entrusted to his care. To be an authentic good shepherd, all bishops (including me) must, to the best of their ability, follow Jesus by laying down their lives for the care and protection of the sheep.
When we were first introduced in July of last year during the press conference announcing my appointment as bishop of Juneau by Pope Francis, I thanked you for the privilege of serving you. I also asked for your assistance to help me be the best possible bishop I can be. Holding me accountable is one way you can help me to be a good shepherd following Jesus the Good Shepherd.
I pledge to do everything I can to prevent the sexual abuse of children, young people, and the most vulnerable among us from happening again, in this diocese and in our Church. Only by living in the truth will it be possible for these painful wounds in the Body of Christ to begin to heal.
Most Reverend Andrew E. Bellisario, C.M.
Bishop of Juneau