The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church



Excerpts from Bishop Lennon's remarks


Below is a transcript of the statement read by Bishop Richard G. Lennon, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Boston, at his first news conference yesterday, followed by excerpts from his responses to media questions.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I wanted to meet with you all today, in the first week in my role as apostolic administrator. As I am sure you can appreciate, this has been an extraordinarily busy week for me. And I am sure that you can appreciate that, in my first week, I still have much to learn. Therefore, I will share with you whatever information I can, but there is a limit to the information that I can provide today. My goal in meeting with you is to share with you an overview of my goals and priorities in this new assignment. I would like to make the following statement.

As I said on Sunday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, these past months and days have been very momentous and unique in the history of the Archdiocese of Boston, and tragic for all the faithful, especially for those who have suffered sexual abuse. In a personal way this is true for me, as I was asked by the Holy Father to assume on a temporary basis the leadership of the Archdiocese of Boston as an apostolic administrator.

Having accepted this position, I did so relying on God's grace to guide me. I also look forward to receiving the support, the advice, and the prayers of the people of the archdiocese, the clergy, the consecrated, and lay faithful. I am grateful for the support that I have already received as so many look for a new beginning.

In accepting the position of apostolic administrator, I did so in full accord with the teaching of the church on the role of a bishop. This entails being a teacher, a priest, and a pastoral leader, in union with the whole church for the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston.

In light of this threefold role of bishop, I wish to mention a few issues which are uppermost on people's minds, and three immediate priorities of mine: one, support of victim-survivors; two, protection of children and prevention of further abuse; three, fostering unity among all the faithful of the archdiocese.

First, I stand fully committed to responding to victim-survivors of sexual abuse as children or as teenagers by members of the clergy. This response will be on several levels. I will support efforts to arrive at a settlement of claims as soon as possible which will be fair and equitable for all the victims of clergy sexual abuse. Aware that there have been ongoing discussions, this morning I have asked counsel of the archdiocese to request that all parties set aside, except for activity mandated by the court, the day-to-day litigation activities for a period of time so as to permit all parties to actively pursue the potential for a comprehensive settlement of all cases. Having consulted with Mrs. Barbara Thorp of the Office of Healing and Assistance Ministry, we will also continue to offer counseling and outreach support to victim-survivors.

And I also will begin to meet with victim-survivors who wish a meeting with me. Respectfully listening to them, I hope to learn the depth of their suffering. I will in turn extend to each of them my apology on behalf of the church for the abuse which they have suffered.

Second, the Essential Norms passed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and now promulgated to be effective March 1 will be faithfully adhered to here in the Archdiocese of Boston, as will the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, also issued by the Conference.

Having received this new law for the United States, archdiocesan policies and procedures will be issued to support and detail how the norms will be carried out.

I am grateful to the Commission for the Protection of Children of the Archdiocese of Boston for their document, Recommendation for Policies for the Prevention of Child Abuse, and the Response to Allegations of Abuse, and for the counsel and the advice from many others that I have received regarding these matters. All of this will be instrumental in my reaching decisions on issuing policies and procedures.

Along with the norms and the charter, it is my heartfelt prayer that these policies and procedures, and most of all a true and lasting spiritual renewal rooted in a personal acceptance of God and his teachings, will result in children being safe from future abuse.

Third, as a teacher of the faith, a priest, and a pastoral leader, I will strive to present our Catholic teaching on the mystery of the church as founded by Jesus Christ so that all the members of the church with their bishop may be united in faith with one another. In a special way I will rely on the help and advice of the priests of the archdiocese in furthering this work.

This unity is so essential, for it is the very will of our Lord as he prayed the night before he died: ''Father, may they be one as you and I are one.'' This unity will be increasingly realized as we all rely on God, as I said in last Sunday's homily, and enter ever more fully in union with him, especially through and in the sacramental life of the church. Relying on ourselves we are unable to truly be church; it is only with God that this can be accomplished, for it is his church, his legacy to us to carry on his presence in the world by following his teaching and by carrying out his mission.

As I conclude these remarks I am aware, and as time passes I am sure to be even more aware, that decisions that I will have to make may not be acclaimed by all. I can only pledge to the faithful of the archdiocese - the priests, deacons, and consecrated, and lay faithful - that whatever I decide will follow upon prayer and advice, as I strive to fulfill my responsibility as apostolic administrator.

Please pray for me as I pray for you. Thank you.

On whether he sees an expanded role for the laity in Catholic Church affairs, and specifically what view he takes of the decision by Catholic Charities to accept a $56,000 donation from Voice of the Faithful, a lay group formed after the clergy abuse scandalbroke.

As we know, the second Vatican Council taught very explicitly about the role of the laity, acknowledging the importance that the laity have in the life of the church's mission, calling the laity to two very important aspects of their work. One, being their work within the world, and secondly their work within the church. And it's within that context that the laity fulfill their mission to its fullest. Already in the past 30-plus years, the role of the laity has expanded, and I'm sure will continue to expand in so many ways within the church ...

Regarding the question of the donation that had been received ... Back in the summertime, the archdiocese received notice from a foundation in Maryland, indicating that they had been contacted. At that time, they had been contacted by the Voice of Compassion, which had been established by the Voice of the Faithful for collecting the money donations to support various activities in the Archdiocese. Because of particular questions at that time, a letter was sent indicating that [neither] the archdiocese, nor its entities, would be able to accept donations because of ongoing discussions that still needed to be attended to. We know that recently the foundation has contacted Catholic Charities, Catholic Charities has given written notice of accepting a donation of $56,000. The directive from this summer was still in effect, and so while I regret what has happened, I realize that this has happened and that the monies received will be accepted by Catholic Charities, and they will be used to support the poor, and the many programs that Catholic Charities runs. We are certainly very much interested in the supplying of services for the poor. However, the discussions with the Voice of the Faithful will continue because they have not yet reached a conclusion in the discussions ...

On whether the Vatican has given its approval to a bankruptcy declaration by the archdiocese, a step contemplated by Boston church officials as a way to contend with the flood of abuse claims against the church:

I am unaware at this time, I have not had conversation with Cardinal Law regarding the petition to the Holy See for that, as to whether or not that permission has been or has not been granted at this point. So that I am unaware of what the position is of the Vatican on that.

Q: But has the decision been made by the Vatican?

A: Not to my knowledge.

Q: Is a declaration of bankruptcy still a possibility?

A: In our desire to respond to all the victims in a fair and equitable manner, the bankruptcy option is still on the table being discussed in the archdiocese along with a mediated settlement, and those things are still in the discussion stage. No final decision has been made.

Q: How will the archdiocese pay any settlement of the abuse litigation. Will church properties have to be sold?

A: ... How that will be funded may well involve the sale of property that is owned by the Archdiocese of Boston ... exclusive of parish properties at this time. That's not envisioned. Along with that, of course, would be the monies that we're able to, in conversation with the two insurance carriers, will go to make up the money that would be needed for a settlement.

On whether he will serve as apostolic administrator until all legal issues are resolved:

Nothing has been said to me, when I received the request to become apostolic administrator, about any time or any conditions or expectations that would have to be met prior to, well, my being replaced with an archdiocesan bishop. There was no discussion on either of those two matters.

On his views of the case of Monsignor Michael Smith Foster, who was twice suspended as the archdiocese investigated charges of abuse against him, and was reinstated after a church investigation deemed them unsubstantiated:

My understanding is that on the Monsignor Foster case, that there were two investigations, and two times it went to the review board, and the review board offered a recommendation, as did the delegate, as far as the determination of the case, which was accepted by His Eminence the cardinal. At that time, the determination was that the allegations were unsubstantiated, and a notice went out to, I know, all the priests... So it was done in a public manner.

On how he views the relationship between the church and gay and lesbian Catholics, and what he knows of the talk of a possible Vatican ban on gays being accepted to seminaries:

Regarding the rumor or whatever that Rome is contemplating a document on homosexuality and the priesthood, I have read various articles on that. The articles do not all agree on, first of all, what Rome might do, and they certainly don't agree on what course of action should be taken. As a seminary rector, I can only say that my emphasis, since I have been here, has been to speak about the virtue of chastity to the men. That the virtue of chastity, I feel, is at the very heart of our lives. And as the virtue of chastity is practiced and exercised, the priest is then able to embrace the requirement of celibacy for the church in union with the work of the church and to be able to in turn, to be representative of Christ to all people of everywhere. Regarding the outreach to the homosexual community in Boston, as I said at my Sunday homily, I see myself, not as the diocesan bishop, but as an apostolic administrator, who has come for all people of the diocese. For all our believers. For all members of the church. And certainly, the people of the diocese, all of them, deserve my attention, and will receive it, and they will be treated with dignity and with respect.

On whether he ever imagined playing the kind of role that is now his:

Certainly, when I was ordained a priest in 1973, the furthest thing from my mind was that I would ever be sitting here today. When I was ordained a priest, and went to a parish, I knew then that what I wanted to do for the rest of my life was to work in a parish. It was without a doubt the most fulfilling and happy days of my life. Baptizing babies and burying the dead, and everything in between. In one parish that I was in, I had 110 altar boys, and 60 children in a choir, and thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. Brought communion to sick people at home, 55 people every month. And then my life began to change, and it has continued to change, and yet in my heart, I will always be pastoral, I think, the yearning to be back in the parish, which I know I will never do. So in a long way to your answer, no, I never thought I would be here.

This story ran on page A30 of the Boston Globe on 12/19/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

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