Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

A Message to Unnamed Victims of Sexual Abuse

by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the June 12, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

For the past 18 months I have been meeting with victims of sex abuse by priests, and with their family members, both individually and in groups. These conversations have been very moving and it is hard for me to put into words how much I have been affected.

To you who are the victims, these are some of the feelings I have heard from you in our talks:

You are very angry and hurt,
You have felt ashamed,
You have felt guilty,
You have felt embarrassed,
You have felt abandoned, and
You have experienced desolation.

I have heard you describe your experience

Of being dismissed,
Of having your complaints minimized or excused,
Of finding yourself feeling blamed,
Of being rejected, and
Of struggling to make sense out of what happened to you.

I have heard you plead for someone like me to say over and over again:

Yes, I believe these terrible things happened to you.
You are not to blame.
We accept responsibility for your suffering.
We will treat you with respect, gentleness and caring.
We will provide you with counseling.

And I have done so, and will continue to do so.

I need and want to continue to seek ways to apologize to you.

I will continue to seek ways to do penance and provide for reconciliation.

I will continue to struggle to explore the meanings of the sexual abuse scandal, its causes and its core issues, for me personally, for the Diocese and for the Church.

I promise I will do my very best to keep from being sidetracked by the pressures of my other work as bishop, or by the demands of the media or the pressures of litigation, nor by those who want me to just ďmove on.Ē

I am resisting the impulse to seek quick answers to what are enormously complex questions confronting us all: What does it all mean? What is Godís plan behind all the turmoil and heartache? What are the true core issues?

Even though it is hard for me, when I see so much that needs conversion and renewal, I am trying to listen, carefully and well, and to do my best to address your needs.

I believe much has been done in the last 18 months, but I donít begin to believe that it is enough. But I want you to know that the Vicar General and I have spent hundreds of hours just listening as best we can; we have traveled hundreds of miles to meet with victims and their families; we have always and will always offer our apology; we have offered counseling services where desired; we have met with parish groups concerned about this issue to address it forthrightly and to honestly and openly answer all questions; we have established a diocesan joint committee of victims and staff to work on your concerns; and, we have re-allocated funds in these financially lean years to provide needed services for you.

Thank you for listening. I promise to keep listening to you in every way, to continue to make myself available to hear your concerns and your struggles and to do all I can to make amends. And I will continue to pray for you each day as I pray for guidance for our wounded Church.

Much Peace and God Bless.

+ William S. Skylstad

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