The Archdiocese of Miami moved one step closer to reconciliation and came clean about alleged sexual abuse by clergy last weekend in a report, issued to its parishes through the Florida Catholic newspaper. The eight-page insert acknowledges that 38 diocesan priests have been accused of sexual misconduct involving minors since the archdiocese was founded 45 years ago, reported the Miami Herald.
According to the Associated Press, Miami reported that 4,302 of the diocesan priests since 1958 (99.1 percent) have never been accused of sexual misconduct involving minors. Most priests are law-abiding examples to the community, says Archbishop John C. Favalora in his letter. Still, he apologized for “the sins of a few.
''I, as the chief shepherd of the archdiocese, express my most sincere apologies,'' Favalora wrote. “I also apologize for any action or inaction on my part that has lessened your sense of trust in the Catholic Church and its ministers. I encourage those harmed in this way to seek the healing, reconciliation and renewal that come from counseling, prayer and Christian hope.”
The diocesan report also explains what steps are being taken in the diocese prevent further sexual misconduct by clergy, such as criminal background checks, installation of a code of conduct, psychological testing and training programs, reported the Miami Herald.
''This primary mission of the Church is to characterize all our actions, including our response to claims of sexual abuse, which is always a sin, an offense against the dignity of the human person, and a crime according to Church law and secular law,'' Favalora wrote.
The report comes on the heels of the suspension of two priests, following allegations of sexual misconduct in two separate lawsuits. Fr. Alvaro Guichard, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish in Miami Beach, was reinstated in August after a 15-month suspension stemming from similar accusations. Guichard and Fr. Héctor González-Abreu, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, denied the allegations.
The Archdiocese of Miami is not the only one to release such information. Several others have already publicized these facts. All 195 U.S. dioceses must make these numbers known to the John Jay School of Criminal Justice, which will tally the number of abuse claims in the U.S. since the 1950s, as well as the costs for legal settlements with victims, attorneys' fees and therapy for victims and offenders. The report, commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be released before Lent, Feb. 24, reported the Miami Herald.
Miami is one of the nation’s largest dioceses, serving 1.2 million Catholics in 110 parishes with 430 priests.