The Diocese of Pheonix has partnered with the county attorney’s office to host a summit today, designed for individuals who work on sexual abuse issues.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted underlined the significance of the conference, not only for the Church but also for society at large.
"Sexual abuse has not only impacted our Catholic Church and other faith communities,” he told the Arizona Republic, “it touches all parts of our society: youth sports, Scouts, schools, day-care centers, homes, any place where our children and youth gather to play, learn, live and trust.
"We need to do all that is possible to ensure that this trust will never be broken again," he added.
Organizers expect 350 participants, including clergy, victims, perpetrators, law enforcement officials and counselors.
Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ national youth-protection office, will deliver the keynote address, called "Finding the Facts: Implications from studies of sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church of the United States." McChesney led the investigations that resulted in the two reports on sexual abuse in the U.S. Church, released in February.
As well, Dr. Ann Burgess of the Boston College School of Nursing, an expert on the sexual abuse of children and crisis intervention, will lead a general session about issues and trends in sexual abuse.
The summit, co-presented by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, will complete the final requirement of the immunity agreement between former Pheonix Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien and the county attorney. In that agreement, O'Brien admitted to endangering children by quietly transferring priests, who were accused of sexual misconduct.
Bishop O'Brien resigned two weeks after signing the agreement, which was only after he was arrested and charged for leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He is serving four years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service.