Statement of USA Province of the Order of Friar Servants of Mary (Servites)
in response to the current sexual scandal in the Catholic Church
The Order of Friar Servants of Mary (Servites) is inspired by the compassionate figure of Mary. She stands at the foot of the Cross of her dying Son and is, for us, a model to imitate. Our charism demands that we stand with those who suffer today. All are part of the Body of Christ.
The recent news of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania and elsewhere has been devastating to our Church in the United States of America. The Servite Friars stand with all victims of abuse by priests and members of religious communities of men. These horrible actions, some of them criminal, have harmed and sometimes irreparably damaged the lives of young people. Like so many, we feel angry, saddened and ashamed of the behavior of sexual predators within the faith community. They have betrayed the trust of many. These acts of abuse betray the ministry which affords them public respect and confidence and the very mission of the compassionate Christ. The secrecy, cover-ups and the protection of abusers by church leader continue to victimize those who have already been hurt and broken.
We recommit ourselves to the implementation of child safety education, background checks, reporting, and external reviews of our child protection efforts. We have followed these for the past 16 years. We have been accredited by Praesidium, the most comprehensive professional abuse risk management firm in the world. We carefully adhere to the policies and procedures regarding sexual misconduct of our Servite USA Province. And yet, as we continue to stand at the crosses of those who suffer from abuse, we are aware that our church leadership needs to more diligently support the ongoing healing of victims, provide transparent accountability, and seek practical ways to fully address the root causes of such abuse. Such efforts must include efforts to combat the unhealthy clerical culture which has allowed this immoral and criminal behavior to be minimized, covered up or ignored.
As a religious community, we call on the church hierarchy to be completely transparent and accountable to the people of God in ways that can be measured, not simply promised. As others have suggested, we call on Church leaders to include competent lay women and men in the effort to eradicate abuse and change our culture, policies, and practices. Secrecy must give way to transparency if justice is to be served. We must discover anew the meaning of the gospel precept which promises that the truth will set us free.
The vast majority of priests and brothers have not committed abuse. They suffer greatly because of the actions of some of our brothers. We continue our ministries to God’s people, even in the middle of such challenges. We realize that many factors have led to this terrible situation, which has had consequences for victims, their loved ones, and the entire church community. We pray for victims of sexual abuse, who continue to struggle in many ways. We pray also to stay faithful to our call as ministers of God’s people, with whom all may feel safe. At this time in history, our Servite charism of compassion needs to be expressed, in word and action. Those who are hurt, broken, disillusioned and angry at the travesty of sexual misconduct in the church desperately need this compassionate understanding.
May they experience healing and wholeness. May we truly be a community of servants. May we always use our service for the good of all, especially the little ones.
Mary, Humble Servant and Compassionate Mother, pray for us.