Several clergy in the archdiocese presently face sex abuse-related charges.
Cardinal Justin Rigali, the previous Archbishop of Philadelphia, in March placed 21 priests on administrative leave following a grand jury report which said that there were credible abuse allegations against them.
Msgr. William Lynn, the archdiocese’s secretary of clergy under Cardinal Rigali’s predecessor Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, faces charges of conspiracy and child endangerment for allegedly transferring sexually abusive priests to new parishes.
He will go on trial in March, along with two priests, an ex-priest, and a former Catholic school teacher charged with raping boys, the Associated Press reports.
Archbishop Chaput’s letter spoke of a “grave and continuing obligation” to help clergy sex abuse victims heal, to create safe church environments, and to cooperate appropriately with civil authorities in pursuing justice for both victims and the accused.
Since his arrival, he said, he has pressed for a “rapid resolution” of the cases of priests placed on administrative leave earlier in 2011. Those cases will be concluded in the first months of 2012.
The confidence of Catholics and the morale of priests have suffered, he added.
“The hard truth is that many innocent priests have borne the brunt of the Church’s public humiliation and our people’s anger. The harsh media environment likely to surround the criminal trial which begins next March will further burden our lay people and our clergy. But it cannot be avoided.”
Archbishop Chaput said his words are a plea “to take our baptism seriously” and to renew the local Church with “Christian charity, justice and zeal.”
God “can certainly use us to renew and advance the work of His Church – and he will.”
He closed his pastoral letter with a request for prayers, citing Jesus’ exhortation “Do not be afraid.”
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Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.