On Sunday, September 16, Sacred Heart Parish hosted an Open Forum session for parishioners to express their concerns regarding the sexual abuse scandal in the Church. The Forum was scheduled in response to the Cardinal McCarrick scandal and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report but also followed the local allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a former priest at Sacred Heart - Fr. Manuel La Rosa-Lopez.
The Forum was well attended by approximately 300 parishioners and was facilitated by Parish Council Members. Counselors were present to assist the community as it dealt with feelings of shock, anger, frustration and disbelief. Parishioners who are attorneys were also present to assist in understanding the legal perspective. The challenge of presenting this topic in English and Spanish was stressful for some yet being together brought strength and comfort to our hurting community.
The Parish Council and Fr. Philip met again on Wednesday, September 19, to review the many suggestions offered by parishioners and identify next steps based upon them. Four areas were identified as the initial focus to strengthen our protection of children:
Education and Prevention
- Partner with Safe Harbor to offer presentations to parishioners on preventing sexual abuse of minors
- Offer VIRTUS: Protecting God’s Children to all parishioners
- Identify and make available other resources to use in educating and increasing awareness of sexual abuse of minors
Healing and Counseling
- Start parish based support groups or identify existing support groups within Montgomery County for (a) Parents of Children who were sexually abused and (b) Sexual Abuse Survivors
- Publish a list of Counselors available to assist parishioners
Strengthen Archdiocesan Protection of Children
- Add external controls/oversight to Archdiocesan Councils/Boards and Organizations that deal with the assignments, transfers, and the spiritual and moral welfare of clergy (Personnel Boards, Review Boards, Presbyteral Council, and any others)
- Add external controls/oversight to boards and organizations dealing with the formation and training of seminarians
- Write a letter to Cardinal DiNardo supporting reforms in this area
- Request that Cardinal DiNardo, when legally possible, publish a list of all clergy, religious and laity of the archdiocese implicated by a credible accusation of the sexual abuse of a minor
- Advise a parish immediately when there is an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by the clergy (when clergy is removed due to this allegation) and immediately solicit information from the parish regarding information and possible other victims (with contact number to local police)
- Create a national hotline to report the sexual abuse of minors that is independent of the Church
The Council is continuing to review the many other ideas presented by parishioners and will give updates periodically.
- Sexual Abuse of Minors: Awareness and Prevention - presentation to Lifeteen youth and parents - Sunday, October 14. Attendance with permission of parents and attendance of parents.
- Same presentation in Spanish to Amigo Cristo - Parish Young Adult Ministry. Date to be determined.
- Offer SAFE HARBOR, VIRTUS or other programs on Protecting Minors to ALL parishioners. Dates to be determined (weeknights, Saturday and Sunday)
- Provide Support Groups as noted above.
- Write a Letter to Cardinal DiNardo requesting and supporting reforms, providing our suggestions.