Catholics React to Apology Letter from Bishop and Promise of Change on Clergy Abuse

Catholics React to Apology Letter from Bishop and Promise of Change on Clergy Abuse
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Local Catholics heard a letter from Bishop Edward Rice of the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese at weekend masses. They heard apologies for the clergy abuse that has returned to news headlines after the Pennsylvania attorney general ‘ s investigation. The diocese had planned to conduct its own independent investigation with FBI staff but will work with the Missouri Attorney General as he requested to review diocesan files.

At St. Peter the Apostle Catholic church in Joplin, Pastor J. Friedel not only read the bishop ‘ s letter but shared his own thoughts and emotions over the scandal and abuse of children.

During what is usually his homily Fr. Friedel said, ” I ‘ m sorry for all of it. I ‘ m sorry especially for anybody the church as ever hurt. ”
It was an apology from a priest to his parishioners.

But there was also an apology in the letter from the bishop who also explained that the majority of cases discussed in Pennsylvania happened before 2002 when the church instituted big changes but admitted more work needs to be done.

Fr. Friedel read form the letter, “And when they cried out for help, bishops ignored those cries.”

Nine priests have had confirmed allegations against them in the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese. Three spent time at St. Peter the Apostle in Joplin and two were removed from there after previous confirmed allegations.

Fr. Friedel spoke candidly in an interview about the scandal that shakes him to the core. He said the Pennsylvania case was like pulling a scab of an old wound. And he admitted he broke down crying at Sunday mass on August 19 th after the Pennsylvania news of more than a thousand children being abused by some three hundred priests.

Fr. Friedel explained, ” I ‘ m blessing kids. And as I ‘ m blessing kids, I ‘ m looking at these precious little kids and I ‘ m going, somebody in my position hurt you. Even though, I ‘ ve not hurt any of them. But it still hurts me because those are our kids. ” His voice cracked with emotion.

For some parishioners, frustration comes from the decades long cover up that also involved bishops.
Olympia Wark, a convert to Catholicism said, ” It ‘ s irritating cause you know it happened again after trying to clear it all out and the stuff was pushed under the carpet. ”

Sr. Diane Langford works at St. Peter ‘ s Faith Formation director. She said, ” For the church to just keep thinking, shuffling men around to other venues so they don ‘ t spoil the same pot, that ‘ s very, very unprofessional of us. ”

Fr. Friedel said things have changed but seventy years ago things were handled badly. ” What happened before all kinds of irregularities, things now we would recoil in horror about, we didn ‘ t always respond well. ”

After revelations of child abuse decades ago, the church bishops created the Charter for the Protection of Youth in 2002 changing how allegations would be handled.

Fr. Friedel said of accused priests, ” And they were on limited with restrictions but once the charter done in 2002, even those people were absolutely removed. So, we have no one working in ministry that offended against a minor nor will we ever again. ”

Fr. Friedel said the nine cases in the diocese have been previously reported. And said only two new cases were reported in Pennsylvania that came after the 2002 charter. Those were sent to prosecutors. It is also policy that parishes where abusive priest served are notified to see if other victims are out there. And the diocese now have Victims’ Assistance Coordinators.

Allegations are now immediately sent to local prosecutors even if they stem from abuse fifty or more years ago.

Parishioners, when asked if they felt the church was changing said, ” I do. It just seems to be a slow process. Maybe too slow for what ‘ s going on, ” wondered Olympia Wark.

The Catholic church adopted procedures. No one is to be alone with children. Everyone who works with kids gets a background check and are trained on the warnings signs in people who are predators.

And Fr. Friedel at mass called on all parishioners to be watchful and report those who break the rules. He said, “If I don ‘ t follow the rules, you need to make some phone calls and make them fast.”

.Kevin Nolte, a parishioner with two young children said, ” For me it just makes me more vigilant, more aware of that reality in our world that we need to look out for that. “

Fr. Friedel when asked said some members have stated they can ‘ t donate after the abuse scandal that has already prompted lawsuits. But those we talked to disagreed. Nolte said, “I know a portion of that money (his donation) could be going to help pay that off but that ‘ s the least I can do to say my own apologies to these people that they ‘ ve been harmed by the church.”

And parishioners said it doesn ‘ t shake their faith. Meghan Burns said, ” No, it doesn ‘ t. Those priests that committed the sins are not the church. Jesus Christ is the church, so all my faith is in Jesus. ”