By Monsignor Steven Aguggia
The crisis of sexual abuse of minors coming to light in the past two decades has taught us many things. In so many ways, the Church has learned how to understand and deal with this horrible scourge which harms so many, both victims and the whole Church, the Body of Christ. Those who are accused of sexual abuse of minors, especially the clergy, are subject to clear and stringent norms to investigate and adjudicate their crimes. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a set of procedures that the United States Bishops established in 2002 to address the allegations of sexual abuse of minors by some clergy. The Charter was revised in 2005, 2011 and in 2018. Topics addressed in the Charter include healing from abuse and the prevention of future acts of abuse. The Dallas Charter and the accompanying Norms govern the investigation of the crimes of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons. Over time, it became clear that it was necessary to create and implement Norms to direct the investigation of allegations against Bishops, as well. The Norms, issued by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in May of 2019, are entitled Vos Estis Lux Mundi (“You are the Light of the World”).
How do these Norms work? The process is relatively simple. A national reporting number (800-276-1562) and website (ReportBishopAbuse.org) have been established. If an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is reported, that report is immediately made know to the Metropolitan, the head Bishop of a Province, and in our case, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, as well as civil law enforcement authorities, who may begin to carry out their own investigation. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was accused of such abuse in November of 2019. His case was referred immediately to the Metropolitan, Cardinal Dolan.
The Cardinal must then inform the Congregation in Rome which is responsible for dealing with these matters. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, gives authorization to the Metropolitan for an investigation to begin. Bishop DiMarzio’s case has quickly moved to this stage in the process laid out by the norms of Vos Estis. Cardinal Dolan authorized his attorneys to find a suitable outside, forensic investigator to begin this investigation. The matter is currently being investigated thoroughly and independently by Freeh Group International Solutions, Inc. Louis Freeh is the former director of the FBI.
The investigation cannot be protracted or delayed. It is done with fairness and with equanimity. The investigation is meant to be completed within three months’ time. As Bishop DiMarzio categorically denies and strongly maintains his innocence, the matter is being investigated fully so that the truth will emerge from this outside, forensic investigation. That is why there is a thorough investigation.
Once the results of the investigation are transmitted to the Holy See, along with the opinion of the Metropolitan, the Holy Father makes a decision as to how to deal with the accused Bishop, in accordance with the law. If that Bishop is found to have committed the crimes of which he is accused, the penalties could vary according to the specifics of the action. If that Bishop is acquitted of the accusations, every attempt is then made to ensure that the good name and good reputation of that Bishop are restored.
The Lord Himself said that the truth will set us free and so our search for the truth is what guides us as together we seek a quick, just and truthful resolution to this situation, the restoration of the good name and reputation of Bishop DiMarzio, as well as the continuation of his ministry as Shepherd of the flock in Brooklyn and Queens.
Msgr. Aguggia is the Chancellor of the Diocese of Brooklyn.