Friday, May 30, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 30

1. The U.S. bishops urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “to develop standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants and thereby mitigate climate change” in a May 29 letter from Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development of the USCCB.

2. "When laws fail to advance the common good, they can and should be changed," Archbishop Wenski said during Thursday's Mass on Capitol Hill to promote immigration reform.

3. Pope Francis will pray with the leaders of Israel and Palestine June 8, which is Pentecost in the Catholic Church. President of Israel, Shimon Peres, and of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas agreed to the pope's invitation to come to the Vatican.

4. The Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve will take place in three weeks. Learn more in this video:

5. God loves you.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 29

1. Several U.S. Bishops took part in a Mass in Washington today to bring attention to immigration reform. “The time to act is now,” said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “We intend to convey the moral urgency of this issue to our elected officials. Delaying any longer is unacceptable.”

2. Archbishop Wenski said in his homily that the immigration system is a "stain on the soul of our nation" and that "A nation that honors law breakers like the patriots of the “Boston Tea Party,” a nation that can allow the dignified defiance of Rosa Parks in her act of law breaking to touch its conscience, is a nation that also can make room for modern-day Jean Valjeans. We can be a nation of laws, without becoming a nation of Javerts. As Jesus reminded the embittered zealots of his day, laws are designed for the benefit – not the harm – of humankind."

3. Did you know that there are more than 15,000 active permanent deacons in the U.S.? Find out more about the deacons with these facts and figures.

4. Cardinal Donald Wuerl discusses Pentecost and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 28

1. The 2014 USCCB Spring General Assembly will be broadcast via satellite from New Orleans, June 11-12, to Catholic television outlets and all broadcasters wishing to air it. The satellite feed will run June 11-12. The proceedings will also be live streamed at . For those wishing to follow the proceedings on social media, updates from the meeting will be live tweeted at with the hashtag #USCCB14. Updates will also appear at

2. A convert to Catholicism dedicated to “serving the immigrant and the stranger” is the recipient of the 2014 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. Bethany Welch, Ph.D., is being recognized for her commitment and work to empower immigrants and the poor as founding director of the Aquinas Center, a center of community development created in partnership with the South Philadelphia parish community of St. Thomas Aquinas.

3. myUSCCB, an innovative resource that will give Church leaders, including clergy, parish and diocesan staff, and educators, access to resources from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be offered free of charge until July.

4. Catholic News Service reports, "Pope Francis called on the world's Christians to pray with him for peace in the Middle East, help convince governments to come to the aid of refugees and pray for Christian unity."

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 27

1. This weekend's trip by Pope Francis to the Holy Land was trending on social media. In case you missed the news, the pope met with the Ecumenical Patriarch, invited the leaders of Palestine and Israel to the Vatican and prayed at the Western Wall.

2. Pope Francis announced he will meet with sexual abuse survivors during a question and answer session with reporters on the way back to the Vatican.

3. In other Holy Land news, last week members of the USCCB encouraged U.S. leaders to work toward a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine.

4. The Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve will take place from June 21 to July 4, a time when our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power. The theme of this year's Fortnight will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church's teaching.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 22

1. Bishop Denis J. Madden of the Archdiocese of Baltimore looks at the impact of Pope Francis' trip to the Holy Land on the Palestinians, saying, "I doubt the Palestinians are looking for any grand breakthrough in the stalled Middle East negotiations, but they are looking for a visit from their father at a time when hope seems to be escaping their grasp. The Pope’s visit will not only give hope to the Palestinians but hope to the Israelis and all people who truly seek the Peace of Jerusalem. "

3. In case you missed the rest of the series of blogs looking forward to Pope Francis' trip to the Holy Land, here's your chance to catch up on the whole series by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop Richard Pates, Archbishop Joseph Tobin and Bishop Madden, you can read them now. Listen to Bishop Pates on Vatican Radio talking about the visit as well.

3.  Responding to the ruling by the federal court in Oregon striking down the state’s voter-approved marriage amendment and the ruling by the federal court in Pennsylvania striking down portions of that state’s domestic relations code, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said, “We stand in solidarity with the Oregon and Pennsylvania Catholic Conferences and all the people of both states. These court decisions are travesties of justice.”

4. Today is the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea. On Saturday, Bishop J. Kevin Boland, bishop emeritus of Savannah, Georgia, and Apostleship of the Sea promoter will celebrate a Mass in observance of the day at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

5. God loves you.

The Pope in the Holy Land

Earlier this week, we debuted a series of blogs looking forward to Pope Francis' trip to the Holy Land. In case you missed the blogs, you can read them in order:

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 21

1. Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, Catholic Co-Chairman of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation, blogs on the upcoming meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, "they will look back with joy at 50 years of deepening friendship and dialogue and give thanks that so much has been achieved. But they will also look forward to the future, towards that great day when Catholics and Orthodox will be able to share fully in the same Eucharist."

2. Pope Francis spoke today about the destruction of nature and how it is destroying a gift from God.

3. Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, offers this video welcome for this weekend's upcoming meeting between the pope and the patriarch.

4. In a May 20 letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, 33 religious leaders, including present and past heads of Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious organizations, said “the time for Israeli-Palestinian peace is now,” and that “achieving peace needs your continued, determined engagement.”

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 20

1. Bishop Richard Pates writes today, "To those who say the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hopeless, I would remind them that the same was said of the troubles in Northern Ireland, apartheid in South Africa, and the Iron Curtain in Europe. Faith sustained hope in these situations and allowed new futures to be born. The same can happen in the Holy Land. And Pope Francis is the right person coming at the right time to the right place, a land that needs hope. "

2. Go behind the scenes of a meeting between some U.S. bishops and leaders of Iran with this Catholic News Service video.

3. reports that Pope Francis said this morning, "Money does not give you a definitive peace. Just think, metal also rusts! What does it mean? A stock market crash and all your money is gone! It is not a secure peace: It is a superficial temporal peace." See what does bring peace.

4. Bishop J. Kevin Boland, bishop emeritus of Savannah, Georgia, and Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) promoter will celebrate a Mass in observance of the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea. The Mass will take place this Saturday at 12:10 p.m., in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

5. God loves you.

Palestinians Will Know People Care

By Bishop Denis Madden

Pope Francis will be the fourth pope in the last 50 years to make this historic pilgrimage to the Palestinian people. What adds to the excitement and great anticipation of this trip is realizing that two of the popes are alive, one has just recently been declared a saint and another is about to be declared blessed.

Like his predecessor St. John Paul II, Pope Francis will include among the sites he will visit the Deheishe Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. There he will see firsthand the plight of those Palestinians who still inhabit refugee camps in the West Bank and in Gaza, in other words within their own territories. I worked in this camp, helping to establish a library and dental clinic while working for the Pontifical Mission for Palestine and can only imagine how the people there will treasure this visit by Pope Francis. I think Pope Francis will also be moved by the warm Palestinian welcome that he will receive even in a refugee camp. The visit to Deheishe, where the overwhelming numbers of inhabitants are Muslim, and the meeting with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem will surely help greatly the relations between Christians and Muslims.

The Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem has been designated as the place with the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will meet commemorating that historic meeting in 1964 of Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, the then spiritual leader of Greek Orthodox Christians. This meeting will enhance the already warm relations between Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch and will help improve relations of Christians worldwide.

As he does on all of his trips, Pope Francs will carry with him a message of love, brotherhood, peace, and concern for all, especially the poor. The pope comes to a region torn by strife not only between the various communities but even within these communities. His very presence will say to all, “we really don’t have to live this way.”

Many times Christian Palestinians living in the Holy Land feel like a minority within a minority and ask if people outside their country, especially other Christians, really know or care about the lives of Palestinians in the Holy Land.

This visit of Pope Francis will answer that question loudly and clearly. He will convey as only he can that feeling of hope and encouragement to keep living good lives in this Holy Land where you never have been and never will be alone.

I doubt the Palestinians are looking for any grand breakthrough in the stalled Middle East negotiations, but they are looking for a visit from their father at a time when hope seems to be escaping their grasp.

The Pope’s visit will not only give hope to the Palestinians but hope to the Israelis and all people who truly seek the Peace of Jerusalem.


Bishop Denis Madden is an auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He lived for nine years in the Holy Land.

When Francis of Rome Meets Bartholomew of Constantinople

By Archbishop Joseph Tobin

In just a few days’ time, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will meet in the Holy Land. It is not known precisely what they will say and do during that encounter. But it will certainly be an opportunity to deepen the relationship between Francis, and “my brother Andrew,” as he called the patriarch when they met the day after his installation as Bishop of Rome. Pope Francis’ calling Bartholomew “Andrew” alludes to the fact that, while Peter is associated with Rome, his blood brother Andrew is associated with the Church of Constantinople as its patron. The meeting on the horizon will have great symbolic significance since it takes places 50 years after the historic encounter between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in the Holy Land in January 1964.

Now it is easy to forget how extraordinary the 1964 meeting was. It brought to a conclusion no less than 500 years of silence between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. No Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch had met since 1438. And the last official correspondence between them had taken place in 1584. And then, centuries of silence gave way with a joyful embrace that marked the start of a new era in Catholic-Orthodox relations.

Events then moved swiftly. On December 5, 1965, Pope Paul and Patriarch Athenagoras presided over the abrogation of the divisive excommunications of 1054, consigning them to oblivion and “erasing them from the memory of the Church.” In 1967, the pope and patriarch exchanged visits in Rome and Istanbul, creating startling images of friendship and Christian charity where there had once been only suspicion and hostility.

Later what was set in motion by Paul VI and Athenagoras was continued by their successors. Saint John Paul II journeyed to Istanbul to meet with Patriarch Demetrios in November 1979, just a year after his election. During their encounter they announced the establishment of an international theological dialogue between the two churches that met for the first time in 1980. Even if the dialogue has encountered a number of difficulties over the years, it is still in progress and has issued several statements on important theological topics. Contacts between popes and heads of the various Orthodox Churches are now commonplace. During the Synod of Bishops, celebrated in October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI presided at a vespers service in the Sistine Chapel and Patriarch Bartholomew offered the homily. Four years later, the patriarch returned to Rome and was present for a solemn celebration that commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council.

Here in North America, an official dialogue had already met for the first time in 1965, and has continued to meet regularly up to the present day. Relations between our churches on our continent are better than in many places, especially since both our churches are minorities and neither side perceives the other as culturally different or oppressive. Our dialogue has released no less than 30 agreed statements over the years dealing with various issues that still divide Catholics and Orthodox from each other. The most persistent issue remains the role of the Pope in the Church. In 2010, our dialogue addressed this question in a creative way in what we call our “Vision Statement.” It sketches out what a re-united Catholic and Orthodox Church might look like, and lists steps that could be taken even now to deepen the communion we already share.

So when the pope and patriarch meet in the Holy Land, they will look back with joy at 50 years of deepening friendship and dialogue and give thanks that so much has been achieved. But they will also look forward to the future, towards that great day when Catholics and Orthodox will be able to share fully in the same Eucharist. As Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew put it so well in their 2006 Common Declaration, “The Holy Spirit will help us to prepare the great day of the re-establishment of full unity, whenever and however God wills it. Then we shall truly be able to rejoice and be glad.”


Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis is Catholic Co-Chairman of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation

Pope Brings Hope to ‘Hopeless Situation’

By Bishop Richard E. Pates
As Pope Francis goes on pilgrimage to the Holy Land this month, he brings more than what many call his “rock star” presence. He brings hope to a seemingly hopeless situation.

The common wisdom is that Israelis and Palestinians will never achieve peace. After all, many say, they have been fighting for centuries. If polls are accurate, most Israelis and Palestinians want peace, but are highly skeptical that peace talks can succeed. They have seen too many failures.

The recent “collapse” of the U.S.-brokered negotiations championed by Secretary of State John Kerry reinforces this view. It seems to be yet another in a long line of failed efforts. But I have a difference view.

First of all, it is important to correct the record; Israelis and Palestinians have been struggling for decades, not centuries. The open struggle started in 1948. At that time, British Mandate Palestine was to be divided by the United Nations into two states, one Jewish, another Palestinian. At the time, Arabs rejected the partition, and fighting ensued, leading to the establishment of one state, Israel. 

In 1967, as Arab nations poised themselves to invade Israel, Israel conquered and occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinians now hope to establish a viable and independent state on these occupied lands. Israelis hope for recognition and security in a peace deal. This is the two-state solution that has eluded negotiators. Ironically, it would establish two states as the UN originally envisioned.

Of course, there are complicating factors: Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian lands; rocket attacks on innocent Israeli civilians from Gaza; Israeli security measures that humiliate Palestinians, cripple the Palestinian economy and seize lands; Palestinian efforts to seek UN recognition apart from peace negotiations; significant questions over how to share Jerusalem; and dilemmas over how to deal with Palestinian refugees.

Into this conflicted quagmire steps Pope Francis. He is a humble man who chose the name Francis because Francis of Assisi was a “man of peace.” What does he bring? He brings faith, faith in God and faith in people, a faith that brings hope.

On Easter, Pope Francis prayed, “Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you … to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.” Pope Francis will bring that hope born of faith to the Holy Land.

Hope is not the same as optimism. Hope apprehends possibilities that are often outside of our human field of vision, but they are not outside God’s. Hope can see a future that flows from God’s Spirit at work in the world. Moreover, Pope Francis has stated frequently that our God is a God of surprises.

To those who say the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hopeless, I would remind them that the same was said of the troubles in Northern Ireland, apartheid in South Africa, and the Iron Curtain in Europe. Faith sustained hope in these situations and allowed new futures to be born. The same can happen in the Holy Land. And Pope Francis is the right person coming at the right time to the right place, a land that needs hope.


Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Five Things to Remember May 19

1. Pope Francis visits the Holy Land May 24-26. Following is a blog post by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of new York, on the significance of the visit to the Jewish community. It is the first in a series of four posts on the visit to be posted on the the USCCB Blog.

2. A special Mass for immigrants and immigrant families will take place May 29 at St. Peter's Church on Capitol Hill. The Mass is offered for immigrants and their families who are subject to separation because of the U.S.'s broken immigration system.

3. Pope Francis say it would do us good to ask, "Where is the firmness of our hearts?" He adds that "the only one that gives firmness to our hearts is the Holy Spirit. It would do us good to think that we have this great gift that Jesus left us, the Spirit of fortitude, of counsel, who helps us to move forward in the midst, surrounded by every day trials. We should do this exercise today, ask how our heart is: Firm or not? And if it is firm, where does it dwell? In things or in the Holy Spirit ? It would do us good! " Text found at:

4. Praying the Rosary With Pope Francis,” an easy-to-carry booklet of meditations, has been released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Communications. The booklet offer meditations by Pope Francis on the twenty mysteries of the Rosary and the life of Jesus and Mary. Full color photographs illustrate each of the Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious and Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.  The 75-page booklet is available for $7.95 through the bookstore.
Starting May 19 and going through the end of May, USCCB will give away a rosary blessed by Pope Francis each day. Those who want a chance to win a free rosary can learn more at

5. God loves you.

Pope Francis and Jerusalem, Deepening the Friendship of Catholics and Jews

By Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Fifty years ago, in January 1964, soon-to-be Blessed Paul VI became a pilgrim, making an historic visit – the first by anypontiff since the earliest centuries of the Church – to Jerusalem and the Holy Land – or, as he put it, “This land where down through the centuries there resounded the voice of the prophets speaking in the name of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” A little more than a year later, the epochal decree, Nostra Aetate,was promulgated by the Second Vatican Council, in which the Catholic Church condemned anti-Semitism and pledged to work with love and respect in dialogue with Jews. These weregroundbreaking events, seminal moments that transformed the Church and its relation to the Jewish people.

Now, 50 years later, Pope Francis becomes a pilgrim as he journeys to Israel, Jordan and Palestine. The relationship between Catholics and Jews has changed dramatically, thanks not only to the efforts of Paul VI, but also those of Saint John XXIII, Saint John Paul II and Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI. John Paul and Benedict both visited Israel and worked hard to continue to forge better relations with the Jews. Who can forget Saint John Paul’s 1986 visit to the Synagogue of the Chief Rabbi of Rome, or the moving image of him praying before the Western Wall in 2000 before leaving the following prayer:

God of our fathers,

You chose Abraham and his descendants

to bring Your name to the nations:

we are deeply saddened

by the behavior of those

who in the course of history

have caused these children of Yours to suffer,

and asking Your forgiveness

we wish to commit ourselves

to genuine brotherhood

with the people of the Covenant.

Pope Benedict’s 2009 pilgrimage to Israel, and his visits to synagogues in Rome, Cologne and New York, deepened the relationship we have established and nurtured during the past half-century. The work of these popes has further affirmed the principle that God’s covenant with the Jews was irrevocable, and that Judaism was not extrinsic but intrinsic to Christianity.

It is within this context, I believe, that Pope Francis’ trip must be viewed. He will travel as a pilgrim, whose actions, as much as his words, will demonstrate his desire to continue the path of dialogue and friendship that has been established. As his friend, Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Argentina, puts it, “I am convinced that this trip will usher in a new era in Jewish-Christian dialogue: the era of empathy.” What an uplifting thought, and so appropriate for this Holy Father, whose entire papacy has emphasized the need for the entire Church – including the pope – to be one with others.

My Jewish friends have told me how excited they are that Pope Francis will be visiting Israel and the Holy Land. As one rabbi friend here in New York tells me, “Don’t forget, Francis is our pope, too!” They see a man of deep faith, great love and honest openness. Their prayer has been that this visit will mark a continuation of the journey begun by Pope Paul VI and advanced by his successors to deepen the relationship and understanding between Christians and our elder brothers and sisters in faith. That is very much my prayer as well.


Cardinal Timothy Dolan is Archbishop of New York and devoted to Catholic-Jewish dialogue.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 16

1. Pope Francis says people shouldn't let their Bibles get dusty and should make time to read them.

2. We are a little more than a month away from the start of Fortnight for Freedom 2014. Learn why it's happening in this helpful video.

3. As we enter the "wedding season," newly-married couples will need continued prayer and support. Read a pastoral letter from the U.S. Bishops' to renew knowledge of Church teaching on the sacrament of marriage.

4. Keep an eye out here next week for a blog series featuring bishops and Cardinals about Pope Francis' trip to the Holy Land.

5. God loves you.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 15

1.The historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem in January 1964 was a joyful occasion that swept aside centuries of division and has born good fruit, said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and chairman of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America, in a joint statement, May 15. The statement anticipated the May 25 meeting of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Jerusalem.

2. The 2014 class of men ordained to the priesthood includes 15 percent Hispanic/Latino. This reflects a gradual increase of Hispanic/Latino priests in the U.S. church over decades, but is about half the percentage of Hispanics in the Catholic Church in the U.S. overall.

3. myUSCCB was designed to help those in ministry save effort searching for the right materials, helping them to spend less time planning and more time doing. See the latest video on myUSCCB.

4. Pope Francis spoke out against the proliferation of weapons in a movement toward peace.

5. God loves you.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Five Things To Remember On May 14

1. In two weeks, many U.S. Bishops will converge on Washington to speak with elected officials to advocate for immigration reform.

2. Pope Francis took notice of recent tragedies in his most recent tweet, asking people to pray for those impacted by the mine deaths and the recent shipwreck in the Mediterranean.

3. Have you seen the story about Jackie Kennedy Onasis writing letters to an Irish priest after the assassination of her husband, John F. Kennedy?

4. Make sure you read a series of blogs about the Church's response to the child sexual abuse crisis.

5. God loves you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Some Facts About Child Sexual Abuse

By Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D

Chair, National Review Board

“We live in a safe neighborhood and have good friends. I don’t believe sexual abuse could happen in this environment”

All too often, parents believe that where they live is the most important determination in preventing child sexual abuse. However, facts say otherwise. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. In this month, prevention is highlighted and prevention begins with awareness.

People who abuse children often look and act like everyone else. But their behavior can gives us clues if we know what to look for.  Offenders often go out of their way to appear trustworthy. They seek out settings where they can gain easy access to children, such as sports leagues, faith centers, clubs and schools. They frequently give children gifts. They allow them to do things parents would not allow them to do, making the child feel complicit in the abuse and therefore less likely to report something. They may spend more time with children then with adults. They often are more excited to be with children.  It is also likely that you know an abuser. The greatest risk doesn’t come from strangers but from friends and family.  Knowing these behavior clues can keep children safe.

Know the facts about child sexual abuse.

- As many as 60% are abused by people the family trusts.
- Family members abuse 30% to 40% of children who are abused.
- About 75% of child pornography victims are living at home when they are photographed. Parents are often responsible or aware of it.
- Youths are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults.
- About 35% of victims are 11 years old or younger.
- 9% of 10-17 year olds receive a sexual request while on the Internet.
- 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited while on the Internet.
- Over 90% of children who are commercially sexually exploited have a history of child abuse.

Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or ‘who tell and are not believed’ are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood. It is important to let your children know they can tell you anything. It is just as important to believe them when they tell you the unthinkable.

Responsible adults need to know the facts, recognize the signs of grooming, and educate children about these realities. It is the responsibility of adults to keep children safe.

Francesco Cesareo, Ph.D., is president of Assumption College, Worcester, Massachusetts. He is in his first year as Chairman of the National Review Board, a lay body that collaborates with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to prevent sexual abuse of minors by persons in the service of the Church.


What We Have Learned from the Sexual Abuse Crisis

By Deacon Bernie Nojadera

Executive Director

Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection

Child Abuse Prevention Month is not a celebration; it is a warning, an alert, a reminder of the evil in the world, and our responsibility as Christians to overcome evil with good.

Even horrible situations such as the sexual abuse crisis can lead to lessons learned. This is true of the Church who has heard the stories of those who have been sexually abused, and is trying to respond in the most educated, compassionate way. We have come to some understanding of how to address the problem, gaining knowledge that can benefit more than the Catholic Church.

Some of what we’ve learned:

- The guiding principle when confronting child sexual abuse is to remember that it is most of all about the person who was abused. It is not about the offender, the institution, or anyone’s reputation. It is about helping a child.

- People can learn.We have moved from disbelief to action. We have learned that what once seemed unbelievable, is, unfortunately, credible and must be faced. Training, reference checks, and background evaluations are a normal part of parish life to keep children safe. We recommend these steps for all who deal with youth.

- Sexual abuse of a minor is a sickness that can be contained through vigilance but will not disappear. Incidents of sexual abuse are still occurring in the one place that ought to be the safest place. We cannot let our guard down. The work is not finished.

- Critical situations impel people and institutions to change. We have seen the culture of our parishes and schools evolve. People now accept that child sexual abuse exists and are willing to help stop it from occurring. They no longer assume someone else will take care of it.

- Child sexual abuse is a reality society must confront. No institution is immune from it. Learning to respond to the victim of abuse is the first job of any institution, community or family.

- The court of public opinion holds institutional leaders to a high standard. Leaders who forgo an immediate and appropriate response to abuse of a child do so at their own peril. There is hardly any other issue that evokes such intolerance as not acting in the face of child sexual abuse.

- Parents are willing to step up and make sure parishes and schools are following policies and procedures to protect children. With this critical issue, few people reply “I just don’t have time to get involved.”

- The task of protecting children can be shared. Clergy, employees, volunteers, parents and teachers realize that bystanders can be their allies in protecting children.

- Child sexual abuse is a hard topic to discuss, but training adults to protect children has given the topic a forum where the uncomfortable reality can be discussed.

- Victims of child sexual abuse can heal and live productive lives. Steps that help bring them toward healing include seriously listening to their stories and expressing profound sorrow for what they have endured. As awful as the experience has been for a person, there is hope, a gift of grace from a loving God.

The Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection is a resource for dioceses/eparchies for implementing safe environment programs and for suggesting training and development of diocesan personnel responsible for child and youth protection programs