Bishop John Quinn spoke with the voice of a penitent church Monday morning.
“For me, this is a very, very sad morning,” he said in a lengthy interview on the day the diocese made public the names of 14 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of children. “I love God’s people, and I am very sad when they are injured.
“We are trying to make this an event that never happens again,” he said.
He spoke of the need for healing from past sins and the need to assure that now and in the future the church would be a safe place for all people, especially children.
“The diocese is fully committed to the protection of children,” he said.
Since allegations of abuse surfaced, the church has put in place policies to assure safety in church-run schools, youth activities and volunteer groups. All church employees, clergy and volunteers are required to participate in training sessions and are subject to background checks before they are permitted to work with children. The recent public attention on abuse of children should “reinvigorate us to be more proactive to provide a safe environment for our children,” Quinn said.
The church must also reach out to those who already have been harmed. “Anyone injured in any way may begin the process by calling and making known what took place,” the bishop said.
The process can be started with a phone call to the diocese’s Victim Assistance coordinator, Terri Wintering, at 507-454-2270 ext. 255. If there is a crime
reported, law enforcement will be notified immediately. If assistance is requested, the caller will be asked “what is it they need to help them heal,” Quinn said.
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Quinn also invited those who have been victimized to contact him directly, if they are more comfortable doing so. “Write me,” he said, “If there is any way I can be of help, I will do my very best to assist.”
The harm done extends well beyond the immediate victims of abuse. Prior to releasing the names of the accused priests, the bishop and church representatives contacted members of the families of the accused, particularly those of the priests who have died. “The families didn’t know of the allegations,” Quinn said, and there was a need to “reach out to them in what will be a difficult time.”
And beyond those immediate circles is the reaction of the people in Catholic parishes and the greater communities struggling with a sense of hurt and betrayal.
“People are very sad,” Quinn said. “They want to trust their priests — like they want to trust their doctor or lawyers — and they are rightly sad when that trust is violated.”
Still, he said, when he visits with the people in their parishes he finds reason to be hopeful.
“They love their priests and respect them,” he said. “But they are concerned for the victims and want the situation dealt with.”
“They don’t want it to happen again.”
It’s a privilege to be a bishop, Quinn said, but with that privilege comes responsibility — responsibility to care for all of the people; responsibility for the actions of all of the priests; responsibility to help heal the wounds of the past and rebuild lost faith and trust.
“With the help of many people we will be a stronger and holier church,” Quinn said. “Christ guarantees that.”