Message from Bishop Olmsted

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When the disciples of Jesus rebuked people after they brought children "to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray." "Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" (see Mt. 19:13-14) It is a source of grave scandal when the trust of those who bring their children to the Church is betrayed. As Bishop of Phoenix, I am fully committed to the goals that have been established by the Bishops of the United States to ensure that our churches and other facilities are safe environments where children will be prayed for, schooled and protected.

The Catholic Church defends the sanctity of human life at every stage, seeks to protect persons from injustice and does not hesitate to condemn all that afflicts the human person. The Church is firmly committed to the care of families and their children. She considers abuse or neglect of children as contrary to Christian morality and as an offense against God and against the dignity of the human person.

The Bishops of the United States have promised to reach out to those who have been sexually abused as minors by anyone serving the Church in ministry, employment, or a volunteer position, whether the sexual abuse was recent or many years ago. In June 2002, the Bishops renewed the Church's commitment to the spiritual and emotional well being of those who have been sexually abused and of their families by the approval and promulgation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

I, Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, pledge my support to this national effort by diligently enacting policies, which safeguard minors in our Diocese. This procedure is not a new initiative, rather an extension and development of our Policy on Sexual Misconduct by Diocesan Personnel that has been in force since 1995, revised in 1998 and was predated by earlier policies from 1991. As our understanding of sexual abuse grows, this policy and its procedures will be reviewed and revised.

We, as a Diocese, will work with parents, educators, civil authorities and various organizations in the community to provide the safest possible environment for minors. Additionally, Diocesan officials will respond promptly to any allegation where there is reason to believe that sexual abuse of a minor has occurred, whether recently or many years in the past.

In October 2003, this current revised Catholic Diocese of Phoenix Sexual Misconduct Policy was promulgated. This policy demonstrates a collaborative effort between local public authorities and the Diocese of Phoenix. A goal of this effort is to raise everyone's awareness of what the Church hopes to accomplish through its "Safe Environment" training program. It will be important to share with parishioners information concerning the advances that are being made in education about this important issue on an ongoing basis, as well as a person's rights and responsibilities and the support systems that are available.

In his First Letter, St. John wrote, "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1Jn. 3:2) The wonder of God's saving love is constantly revealed in our midst through human instruments that are made of clay. While fragile, we reflect the glory of the one true God who created us in his image. I invite you to join with me in a cooperative effort to provide an environment that is welcoming and safe for our children. A place where parents can entrust their children with confidence that they will experience the love that God has for them and find blessing.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

+ Thomas J. Olmsted
Bishop of Phoenix

 

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