By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
COCHIN, India – Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Ore., says the current crisis of sexual abuse within the Church is “a time for saints” in order to “rectify the institutional failures that allow such grave offenses to occur.”
In a four-page pastoral letter released on Monday, Archbishop Sample responded to both the recent Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which chronicled 70 years of abuse at the hands of 300 predator priests toward more than 1,000 victims, along with the news of ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, whose resignation was accepted from the College of Cardinals after revelations of years of abuse of seminarians.
Archbishop Sample said that it took him some time to formally respond to recent news because he had been “shaken to the core of my soul over them.”
“My first response was anger and disgust, which many of you have also experienced,” he added. He went on to encourage Catholics within the archdiocese of Portland to read Pope Francis’ letter to the “People of God,” released on Monday.
“He rightly calls what has happened part of the ‘culture of death,’” Archbishop Sample said.
“As Pope Francis has asked in his letter, all of the People of God should pray and do penance for healing in the Body of Christ. I realize that the lay faithful are not responsible for this scandal, but as members of the communion of the Church, our prayers and sacrifices are very powerful in helping ward off this evil in our midst,” the archbishop wrote.
In addressing next steps, Archbishop Sample said that the U.S. bishops must reform its own policies in order that bishops, like priests, can be held accountable. He also echoed Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, in calling for a Vatican investigation into the McCarrick situation.
Archbishop Sample also called for an outside investigation process, “with the substantial involvement of lay people who are independent experts in their respective fields,” to be conducted.
“A body investigating itself does not inspire confidence in the objectivity of the outcome,” the archbishop sad.
He said any investigation should also cover “those who knew of reprehensible behavior and yet said little, did nothing, or aided and abetted a perpetrator’s activities. All those responsible must be held accountable.”
“All reports of misbehavior or abuse must be properly investigated. They must never be summarily dismissed, ignored, or hidden. They must be dealt with, expeditiously and transparently,” he said.
“I will carry all of this with me in my heart when the U.S. Bishops gather in November at our annual meeting, where I will be a strong advocate for the reforms and concrete actions which must take place,” Archbishop Sample wrote.
The archdiocese of Portland has also announced that Archbishop Sample will celebrate a Mass this Sunday, Aug. 26, for Healing for Victims of Sexual Abuse.