Beginning Thursday, February 21, 2019, Pope Francis will welcome the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to the Vatican for a special meeting to discuss the issue of clergy sexual abuse. The meeting is scheduled to run through Sunday.
There are great expectations surrounding this meeting; however, the main goals are the following:
- To raise awareness on the various aspects of the tragedy of the sexual abuse of children, the prevention of abuse, and the safeguarding of our children and young people.
- The meeting will provide bishops with additional information that will allow them to continue addressing this topic when they return home.
- Prayer. Prayer will be woven throughout each working day of the meeting, including a penitential liturgy on Saturday afternoon and Sunday’s Mass.
Each day will have a specific theme:
- First day: responsibility
- Second day: accountability
- Third day: transparency
In anticipation of this meeting, here are some resources:
- Link to the conference’s official website: http://www.pbc2019.org/home
This site has a variety of resources including:
- An overview of the meeting, speakers, presentations, and the organizing committee
- A timeline, official documents, and Church law pertaining to the protection of children and young people
- Information for the press
- Links to Vatican offices which are responsible for overseeing child protection
- Video of Monday’s press conference with the organizing committee: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OWQncShy578
- Link to our diocesan page on the conference: https://grdiocese.org/2019/02/18/pope-key-bishops-to-discuss-abuse-preve...
- Link to Bishop Walkowiak’s video ahead of the conference: https://grdiocese.org/2019/02/07/video-message-bishop-walkowiak-abuse-sc...
The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ Office of Communications has issued the following statement from Bishop David J. Walkowiak in response to the Holy See’s announcement that former Archbishop McCarrick has been dismissed from the clerical state.
I stand in solidarity with our Holy Father in his decision to dismiss former Archbishop Theodore McCarrick from the clerical state based on the former Archbishop’s actions.
Cardinals and bishops, like priests and deacons, must be held accountable for any actions that cause harm to the most vulnerable in our communities. I encourage all individuals to report such instances to both the Church and civil authorities so that the appropriate steps toward justice and healing may be taken.
The Church must continue to seek forgiveness for its previous actions and I pray that this decision will provide a source of healing to the former Archbishop’s victim-survivors. I, along with the Catholic faithful, will continue to pray for all survivors of sexual abuse and provide assistance to promote healing.
As the presidents of the world’s episcopal conferences meet in Rome this week, I pray that the meeting will bear fruit to help cleanse the Catholic Church and restore the trust of the faithful.
The Diocese of Grand Rapids serves more than 191,000 Catholics, 80 parishes and 31 schools in an 11-county area of West Michigan. For additional information visit our website grdiocese.org. Connect with the diocese on Facebook (Diocese of Grand Rapids), Twitter (@GRDiocese), and Instagram (@GRDiocese).
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A message from Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak to the faithful of the Diocese of Grand Rapids ahead of the worldwide bishops' meeting at the Vatican from Feb. 21 - 24 to discuss clergy sexual abuse and our global response as a Catholic Church.
November 21, 2018
November 7, 2018
Amid the clergy sexual abuse scandal, Bishop Walkowiak has received letters from the faithful asking about the welfare of our diocesan seminarians and whether the men currently in formation for the Diocese of Grand Rapids are safe.
Bishop Walkowiak has full confidence in our two seminaries: Saint John Vianney College Seminary at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.
He personally spoke with our diocesan seminarians at their convocation in August and told them that they should immediately inform the rectors or our vocations directors of any improper conduct. He emphasized that they themselves would not face any reprisals for coming forward.
Bishop Walkowiak met with the seminarians at Mundelein Seminary on Thursday, Oct. 25 and they all seemed to be in good spirits. He called the rector of Saint John Vianney College Seminary the following day, Oct. 26, and asked about our seminarians. He was assured that they are all doing well.
The rectors of both seminaries have released letters regarding their protocols for keeping seminarians who are on their campuses safe.
- Letter from Very Reverend Michael Becker, rector, Saint John Vianney College Seminary.
- Letter from Very Reverend John Kartje, rector, Mundelein Seminary.
Additional Resource: Catholic Spirit article, "How do I know my son is safe in the seminary?" referenced in Very Reverend Michael Becker's letter.
All of this information has been published to the diocesan website.
October 3, 2018
The Diocese of Grand Rapids’ Office of Communications issues the following statement in regard to the search warrant executed in all seven Michigan Catholic dioceses today:
The Diocese of Grand Rapids received and fully cooperated in the execution of a search warrant related to the ongoing investigation by the Michigan Department of the Attorney General.
Per our statement regarding the announcement of the Attorney General’s investigation on September 21, 2018, “The Diocese of Grand Rapids welcomes and will fully cooperate with the Department of the Attorney General. We welcome them to join us in our efforts of inviting survivors to come forward, a practice that has been in place since 2002.”
We will continue to assist in the Attorney General’s investigation as requested.
Click here to read the statement and access additional resources on the Diocese of Grand Rapids' website.
Additional details on safe environment policies and procedures in the Diocese of Grand Rapids can be found under Child and Youth Protection on the diocesan website.
September 10, 2018
September 2, 2018
Prayer of Lament at St. Francis de Sales, Holland on Wednesday, September 5, 2018 at 7:00 pm. Learn more...
August 28, 2018
An Invitation from Bishop Walkowiak
Please join Bishop Walkowiak on Wednesday, Sept. 19th at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew for a Holy Hour which will be offered for the healing of survivors of sexual abuse, reparation for the sins of clergy, and the restoration of hope for our Church.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 19
Time: 7 p.m.
Location: Cathedral of Saint Andrew, 301 Sheldon Blvd.
August 16, 2018
A Letter from Bishop Walkowiak
Dear Friends in Christ,
The news over these past few weeks regarding clerical abuse in the Catholic Church has been a shameful reminder of our past. My prayers today are with the survivors of sexual abuse. I am truly sorry for the pain you have endured. The survivors who have come forward to tell their stories are courageous. I encourage others to do the same. The Catholic Church is willing to help. If you or someone you know has a report of sexual abuse which occurred in the Church, please contact our victim assistance coordinator at 616-243-0491, and the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Personally, I am deeply sorry for these instances which have caused many Catholics to lose faith. Clergy, men who were supposed to lead men and women to Christ, abused their power, committed sin, and inflicted deep spiritual, mental, and emotional wounds. These are wounds which can only be healed by Christ the Divine Physician.
I can understand your anger with the bishops over these recent reports. I promise to continue working toward concrete measures that protect our young people. During the height of the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in 2002, St. John Paul II addressed the cardinals of the United States. His words still reverberate today:
“It must be absolutely clear to the Catholic faithful, and to the wider community, that Bishops and superiors are concerned, above all else, with the spiritual good of souls. People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.”
Following these reports in 2002, the bishops of the United States endorsed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. It has been renewed three times since 2002, with the most recent renewal coming earlier this summer. This document established norms and policies which help keep our young people safe. This document lays out the requirements of every volunteer, staff member, teacher, and clergy member to participate in training which teaches how to recognize signs of abuse, ways to guard against abuse, and how to protect children from abuse. It also requires every person who has contact with children to agree to a background check, and in some cases to be fingerprinted. Every member of our clergy undergoes an extensive psychological evaluation and background checks while in formation. Let me reiterate, the diocese has a zero-tolerance policy for anyone in the Church who abuses a child. The Diocese of Grand Rapids takes every allegation of abuse seriously and investigates it to the fullest extent. Our review board is comprised of two priests and seven lay members, including a retired judge, retired FBI officer, therapists, and educators. We immediately report these allegations to the proper local authorities and fully cooperate with their investigations. In the cases of substantiated reports, the names of the accused are publicly released.
In the sixteen years since the Charter was established, almost 23,000 people have been trained through Protecting God’s Children sessions in our diocese. In this past fiscal year alone, more than 65 training sessions were held throughout our eleven counties.
Some of the recent news reports involve clerical abuse which occurred within a seminary. This is no place where a man who is discerning God’s call for his life should ever feel vulnerable. I have complete confidence in our two seminaries; Saint John Vianney at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. I have personally spoken with our diocesan seminarians and told them that they should immediately inform the rectors or our vocations directors of any improper conduct. They will not face any reprisals.
I am proud to be the bishop of our priests who are faithful and true to their calling. These holy men serve tirelessly and work constantly for the protection of young people in our diocese. Please support our priests and offer them encouragement in their work.
We bishops must redouble our resolve to eradicate these sins from within our beloved Church. We will review the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and enact additional concrete measures which aim to ensure that this will never happen in our Church again. As leaders we will continue to seek answers, as Cardinal DiNardo, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, stated on August 1:
“The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick’s conduct to the full extent of its authority; and where that authority finds its limits, the Conference will advocate with those who do have the authority. One way or the other, we are determined to find the truth in this matter.”
Please join with me in prayer. We pray for the survivors of sexual abuse and their families that their wounds may be healed by our ever-loving God. Please pray for our seminarians, our priests, and me, that God’s grace and mercy may allow us to overcome our human failings. We also pray for the Catholic Church that she may be the beacon of Christ’s light in this dark world.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak
Bishop of Grand Rapids
Additional resources & news from the USCCB
A prayer for healing victims of abuse (bilingual)
President of U.S. Bishops' Conference announces effort that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican as U.S. Bishops resolve to address "Moral Catastrophe" - Aug. 16, 2018 (Read news release)