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Bishop Edward Burns: Victims of abuse have helped us see the errors of the past

According to the head of the US Bishops’ Committee on Child and Youth Protection Bishop Edward Burns, “Victims of abuse have helped us see the errors of the past,” He said that the US church still stands ready to help the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

“We express our gratitude for the way they’ve called us to look at ourselves, and see that there is a need to change, to be contrite, and to assist in the healing process. It’s important that we continue to work together in order to be sure that there is a safe environment within the church, and that we never grow lax in assuring that all our children are safe." Bishop Burns added.

Bishop Burns confirmed the subject of clergy sex abuse is being brought into the headlines again with the release of the new movie “Spotlight," set for release Nov.6, adding he hoped to see the movie soon.

“I’ve heard some wonderful acclaims for how well it’s presented and how well it’s been produced," he said, but “I’m not looking forward to watching it, because I know the topic is heart-wrenching."

The story about “Spotlight" detailed how church higher-ups knew priests were abusing children but moved them from parish to parish instead of removing them. The film shows the anguish of victims as they tell their stories to Globe reporters.

“When a child is abused by a priest, it ruins their spirituality," said Phil Saviano, a victim’s advocate of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Saviano was abused by a priest when he was 12 years old.

“I’m hoping that the film will serve as an incentive for the Vatican to get more serious about putting measures in place to hold bishops accountable and to protect children," he said.

Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection – created as another response to the abuse scandal — said he sees the release of the movie as “another opportunity of grace" to show how far the church has come in its response to victims of sexual abuse.

Before 2002, there had been stories about abusive priests but the stories published by the newspaper in 2002 sparked an upheaval in the Boston archdiocese that brought significant changes as similar revelations came to light about abusive priests around the world.

Bishop Burns, then the executive director of the US bishops’ Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, said he was working as staff when the bishops met in Dallas in 2002, when the sexual abuse crisis was part of the national discussion.

“I still remember the frenzy of media surrounding the hotel and the anxiety of the bishops in addressing this issue, as well as the opportunity for the bishops to hear from the victims of abuse during their general session," he said. “I remember it being very poignant, very direct.

“What needs to be done? We need to get to 100 per cent,” Bishop Burns said.

It was the bishops’ awakening to the point that resulted to the adoption of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young people" which have been in effect since 2002, and have been revised twice so far, in 2005 and 2011.

Speaking to U.S. bishops, Francis said sexual abuse can no longer be kept a secret. He says he promised to “zealously” protect young people and that “all those responsible are held accountable.”.

According to the President of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Barbara Blaine, “the culture change is too little, too late".

“I think the church is safer today" because of the “diligent work" of reporters like those at the Boston Globe as well as abuse victims who came forward, said Blaine, who herself had been abused by a priest.

But “those of us who have come forward are just the tip of the iceberg and I think victims today are still treated as though we are the enemy," Blaine said in a telephone interview with CNS from Chicago on November 9.

Asked whether seeing “Spotlight" could traumatize victims, Blaine replied, “I think it can be painful, but I suspect that it will be healing for victims. I think that many victims still suffer in secrecy and shame. I think this movie will give them the opportunity to heal.










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