What the Bishop Said
London Free Press [Canada]
August 7, 2006
Excerpts from Bishop Ronald Fabbro's homily at St. Ursula's Catholic Church in Chatham:
My homily today comes in the aftermath of the guilty plea of Father Charles Sylvestre to many counts of sexual assault spanning many years . . .
I acknowledge that it may be difficult for victims to hear people like me speak on the subject of priestly abuse. In their pain and anger, what I say can seem insincere, defensive and self-serving. I am here to tell you that I am saying what I mean, and that I mean what I say . . .
I sincerely apologize to the victims and their families, for the abuse they endured at the hands of Father Sylvestre, and for suffering the consequences of that abuse over the years. I apologize, as well, for the failure of the church to protect the victims and their families from Father Sylvestre.
In hearing the stories of the victims, I knew right away that their hearts had been broken, and it was heartbreaking for me to hear of their experiences. Love and time, and reconciliation can help to heal broken hearts. For my part, I am ready to meet personally with any victim and any victim's family . . .
My goal is to protect people against abuse. My goal is also to provide a way for dealing with allegations of abuse quickly and effectively. . . .
The abuse of minors has been a scourge in the Diocese of London that must end, and I pledge myself as the Bishop of London to do my utmost to end it . . .
I have also heard the victims cry out for justice. There will be a measure of justice in the sentence that the judge will hand down to Father Sylvestre for his conduct. But the Church can do more. This conduct over many years warrants Father Sylvestre's dismissal as a priest. As the Bishop of the Diocese of London, I will petition Rome for the laicization of Father Sylvestre . . .
There can be no justification for abuse. There are explanations for the Church's failure to take the appropriate steps in the past to protect victims from abusive priests, but these explanations seem weak. Especially with the acute vision given by hindsight . . .
For Catholics, it was once unthinkable that priests would abuse children. This disbelief affected all of the Church, from parents on to school teachers, to priests and even to bishops. So in many cases the victims were victimized twice. First by the abuse itself, and then by the refusal of others to believe them. Some were made to feel guilty for making an accusation and some believe, even today, years later, that they themselves are at fault for having been abused. There is no room left in the Church for this kind of thinking. . .
It takes great courage for a victim to make an accusation. As a Church, we have benefited from the actions of victims, because they have taught us how to protect our people better. . .
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