In response to the devastating report on clergy sexual abuse and subsequent coverups released by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, Pope Francis has taken the unprecedented step of issuing a detailed letter to the People of God.
In the interest of our Pope's exhortation that we hear "the heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven" and allow "solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history" we encourage all of the faithful of our Archdiocese, our pastors, religious and lay pastoral workers to take time to read and reflect on the message it contains.
Below you will also find a selection of prayers of the faithful that may be used at weekend Masses and other appropriate liturgical celebrations.
Pope Francis Letter with Message from Archbishop Don pdf (English) (French)
My name is Rev. Brad Fahlman, and I am here to welcome you. I am the Bishop’s Delegate for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse for the Archdiocese of Regina. Appointed by Archbishop Don, I represent him as his delegate in working toward creating a safe environment by which victims of clergy sexual abuse can find support and a way to move forward.
As a Church community, we must sadly acknowledge that victims have frequently not been heard and supported.
I am here to let you know that if you or someone you love has been the victim of Clergy Sexual Abuse or other grave forms of pastoral misconduct, we are committed to hearing you and supporting you.
For many people, even coming to this webpage is an act of great courage. We want to acknowledge that courage with gratitude and promise you that you are not alone and you will not have to walk this path alone. We are striving to do better and are humbled to move forward with you.
If you would like to file a complaint, or are looking for the ongoing support of other victims and their loved ones, or if you are in need of further information related to clergy abuse and misconduct, please contact me at 1(306)-400-3655 [or email me at enquiryarchregina [dot] sk [dot] ca]. Know that by contacting me in this way you are contacting a strictly private and confidential phone number and email address – accessed only by me.
My hope is to assist you in identifying and taking the next step or simply accessing needed information. Know also that coming to the diocese doesn't preclude you going to the police at any time. The commission given to the Church by Christ includes both healing and the pursuit of justice. Being at the service of those who have been hurt by the Church’s ministers is not peripheral to the Church’s mission, but central.
As the delegate, I am commissioned to assist you with a process that helps you move forward and that includes, should you find it helpful, assisting you in finding a person who can journey with you and support you in identifying your options as a victim trying to move toward healing. Responding quickly and compassionately to any situations of abuse is a priority for Archbishop Don, myself and for the Archdiocese of Regina and we are committed to walking with you on the path to healing and justice
"Bonjour et bienvenue,
Je suis Donald Bolen et je suis l'archevêque de l’archidiocèse de Regina. Je suis ici pour vous accueillir et vous saluer. Depuis un certain temps, l’abbé Brad Fahlman, mon délégué auprès des victimes d’abus sexuels, ainsi qu’un petit groupe de victimes d’abus sexuel commis par des membres du clergé et un certain nombre de personnes de soutiens travaillons ensemble afin de créer un environnement sécure dans lequel les victimes peuvent trouver du support et de la force pour progresser dans leur cheminement.
Nous devons malheureusement, en tant qu’Église, reconnaitre que les victimes n'ont pas toujours été entendues et soutenues.
Je veux vous assurer que si vous, ou quelqu'un que vous aimez, avez été victime d'abus sexuel par un membre du clergé ou d'autres formes d'inconduite pastorale graves, nous nous engageons à vous entendre et à vous soutenir.
Pour beaucoup de gens, la simple décision de visiter ce site internet représente un acte de grand courage. Nous voulons reconnaitre ce courage avec gratitude et vous assurer que vous n'êtes pas seul et que vous n'aurez pas à parcourir ce chemin douloureux sans aide. Nous nous efforçons de nous améliorer et nous voulons progresser humblement avec vous vers la guérison.
Si vous souhaitez déposer une plainte, ou si vous désirez un appui soutenu d’autres victimes et leurs proches, ou si vous avez besoin de plus amples renseignements sur l'abus et l'inconduite de membres du clergé, veuillez contacter Brad Falhman à 1-306-400-3655 (ou par courriel à enquiryarchregina [dot] sk [dot] ca). Sachez que seulement Brad a accès à ce numéro de téléphone privé et confidentiel ainsi que ce courriel.
Notre espoir est de vous aider à identifier et à passer à l'étape suivante ou simplement d’accéder à des informations pertinentes. Sachez que vous êtes les bienvenus de contacter la police à n’importe quel moment. La mission donnée à l'Église par le Christ inclut à la fois la guérison et la poursuite de la justice. Être au service de ceux et celles qui ont été blessés par les ministres de l'Église n’est pas secondaire mais est au cœur même de la mission de l'Église.
Comme mon délégué, l’abbé Brad Fahlman est autorisé à vous aider sur une démarche à suivre qui vous permettra de progresser dans votre cheminement. Cela inclus, si vous êtes intéressé, à trouver une personne qui peut cheminer avec vous et vous appuyer dans l’identification des options en tant que victime cheminant vers la guérison. Répondre rapidement et avec compassion à toute situation d'abus est pour nous et pour l’archidiocèse de Regina, une priorité. Nous nous engageons à marcher avec vous sur le chemin de la guérison et de la justice.
Moving Forward, Journeying into the Pain of Clergy Sexual Abuse: A Year in Perspective
by Pamela Walsh
In January, 2017, a special committee was assembled to prepare materials for parish-based services regarding clergy sexual abuse. The diverse group included victims that are parish members, non-victims, clergy, religious, and a victim that has been told to leave the church because of the abuse. The group was tasked with first revising a service, “Light in the Darkness”. In the fall of 2017 the group began to write an original work based on the Way of the Cross.
Preparing the service was demanding. Asking people to move into the trauma of clergy sexual abuse does not come at a cheap price. You cannot unhear what a person has shared without impact. For some it meant reliving their experience. For non-victims, it was seeing the ramifications that abuse leaves with victims. As one victim shared, “the impact is forever; it is the legacy I am left with.” Having everyone’s voice heard, understood and accepted was not easy. Through patience and persistencethe group managed to enter into each other’s wounds, creating a powerful text that invited others to hear the painful torment of clergy sexual abuse.
So many aspects need to be brought out about this painful topic; the services could not tackle everything at once. Education and raising awareness within the church structures and for non-victims were among the main goals, with the idea that people might begin to see how victims suffer in silence as the result of clergy sexual abuse. It begins a much needed open and honest conversation within the church, dispelling the commonly held myth that this is an old problem that affects just a few people, and naming the truth that clergy sexual abuse is part of the Catholic Church’s past and part of the present that has caused extreme pain for victims, often for a lifetime. Not a corner in the small Archdiocese of Regina has been untouched by this ugly reality.
In March of 2017, the conversation began with a special service in one parish. This year the conversation continued in 13 parishes. Two formats were presented: a Way of the Cross meditation and the 2017 Light in the Darkness prayer service. The Way of the Cross was written with victims’ voices sharing their pain in the context of Jesus’ passion, as indicated in the opening of the service:“In this meditation you will hear different voices. Interspersed with an account of Jesus as he is led to his crucifixion, at each station you will hear the words, the pain and anguish of victims of clergy sexual abuse, how they are crucified and the crosses they bear.” Archbishop Bolen’s message in the same service indicated“This is not an easy way of the cross to participate in, and is not for the faint of heart. It asks us to listen to the voices of victims of clergy sexual abuse, so that we might get at least a glimpse of the darkness experienced there.”This was difficult for people to hear, but it is the reality that many victims live with daily.
With the services written, Archbishop Bolen invited two members of the committee who prepared them to speak to the Council of Priests and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council about experiences of victims. What resulted was a service being held in every deanery, though not all services were deanery events, as some parishes took upon themselves organizing a service. With the journey of victims’ pain being echoed through out the diocese, the education was started. As winter continued its grip on Saskatchewan, with wild winter storms that eventually gave way to thawing ground and new growth, so too is the silence within the church giving way to faint cries being whispered in the pews. For many decades victims of clergy sexual abuse have felt the experience of being turned away, silenced, berated and considered the least of the least, the blight of the church; a cancer needing to be cut out and eradicated. All the while the abusers were proclaimed as good pastors, held in the highest of ways. The services began to challenge the perspective of just how wrong that kind of thinking is.
On a storm filled evening in Shaunavon on March 8th, the first service was held. The storm did not stop people from coming to Light in the Darkness and victims’ words echoed into the night. On May 15 in Yorkton during the calm of the evening the cry of victims called out in the Way of the Cross and the last of the services were completed. In between, in Estevan, Coronach, Resurrection –Regina, Weyburn, Rockglen, Fort Qu'Appelle, Christ the King – Regina, both Moose Jaw parishes, St. Jean Baptist- Regina (French) and Whitewood, the cries of victims were heard over and over again.
From reaching 75 people one year to over 325 the next is progress, albeit slow. The change cannot just occur through words, but also needs to occur through actions, support, education and understanding. Walking with victims is not easy; their trust has been shattered, their lives forever altered. Many victims have told the church what happened to them and were not believed or told to get over it, or told they were no longer welcome. The winds of change are blowing, no longer is it acceptable to cast aside victims, no longer is it acceptable to doubt them and take the side of the abuser. It is simply no longer an option for the church to turn its backs on the least of the least and praise and parade those who abuse as better than. Victims didn’t ask to be abused, they just were. Do not be afraid of victim’s anger; rather, walk, listen and begin to understand the deep pain they live with daily. Archbishop Bolen asked “I invite you to find the courage to listen deeply and compassionately to those who were wounded, where they should have found love. And look for the presence of the wounded Jesus walking in solidarity with the victims and calling us all to conversion and compassion.”
Many comments were made about the services. Some questioned, where do we go from here? Others were deeply moved by the service, having not every really understood the trauma victims endured. Others indicated that the need for education and continuation of the conversation was necessary for victims to be heard and understood. Many found the services very difficult to hear, but recognized the power of the words that victims spoke. Some people felt the church was still doing nothing and that nothing had changed. Some victims that attended services indicated that they still don’t feel welcome or heard, and left feeling nothing had changed. Others left the service without even being acknowledged, a continued painful aspect of being a victim, faceless, voiceless and unnoticed - leading to the realization that much more work has to be done.
As more services are planned, more people will become aware of the devastating lifelong impact that clergy sexual abuse victims live with and the collateral damage to all. Perhaps people might begin to lookat who might have sat beside them one day at Mass and suddenly that person or family is no longer there. The reason why might just be that they were a victim of clergy sexual abuse and can no longer stand inside the church, or were asked to leave. The question remains, how do laypeople, clergy, religious and all non-victims within the church reach out to those deeply wounded? Is it not time to stop being a bully or a bystander and start a conversation on this painful topic?