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Archbishop Allen Vigneron on preparations for USCCB Fall General Assembly

The Department of Communications shares the following message from Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron as he enters a seven-day period of prayer and reparation leading up to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) 2018 Fall General Assembly, which takes place November 12-14 in Baltimore, Maryland.
 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The U.S. bishops are joining together in a commitment of prayer and reparation leading up to the bishops’ general assembly, where we will be making critical decisions in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. With my brother bishops across the nation, I will be dedicating myself to seven days of intensified prayer and fasting, from Monday, November 5, through Sunday, November 11. The intentions for this period of prayer and sacrifice are three-fold:

·        For the healing and support of all victims of clergy sexual abuse.

·        For the conversion and just punishment of perpetrators and concealers of sexual abuse.

·        For the strength of the bishops to be holy shepherds in protecting and leading our sheep from all harm.

If you feel called to do so, you are welcome to join me in praying for these intentions. 

I would also be grateful for any prayers for me and my brother bishops during our general assembly, that we may follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in responding to the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse in the Church.

In sending you this letter, these words of St. Paul come to mind: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:20). It is my solemn duty as Archbishop to assume in prayer the burdens of our wounded Church. Thank you for your willingness to consider praying with me and for me as I join my brother bishops in this nationwide effort of prayer and reparation. Please be assured of my prayers for you, as well.


Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron

Archbishop of Detroit

Archbishop Allen Vigneron statement on the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue

The Department of Communications shares the following statement from Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, in response to the October 27 shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:

I am deeply saddened to hear of the terrible tragedy which occurred Saturday morning at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As Catholic Christians, we stand with faith communities around the country – and the world – in condemning the actions of anyone who commits a crime of hatred and bigotry. In particular, it is especially heinous when that crime targets people in their place of worship. I extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to my Jewish brothers and sisters in Pittsburgh, as well as here in Metro Detroit. My prayers are with the victims and their families during this time of senseless tragedy.

Regarding Archbishop John Nienstedt

In response to media inquiries concerning Archbishop John Nienstedt, the Archdiocese of Detroit released the following statement:

This summer, Archbishop Nienstedt announced his intention to move back to southeast Michigan to live in a house he owns. At that time, Archbishop Vigneron asked Archbishop Nienstedt – and he agreed – to abstain from public ministry in the Archdiocese of Detroit. That agreement remains in effect.


Regarding the Death of Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone

The Communications Department of the Archdiocese of Detroit shares Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s response to the death of Saginaw Bishop Joseph R. Cistone:
 

Since his first days in Saginaw, Bishop Cistone was committed to being a loving and zealous pastor for his priests and his people. I offer them, and the bishop’s family, my heartfelt condolences. For myself, I’ve lost a friend and a brother. In a year of many challenges, and particularly in these last months of his struggle with cancer, I was edified by the confident hope with which he faced his illness. May the Lord welcome him home this day.

Catholic Television Network of Detroit to Air Canonizations

The Catholic Television Network of Detroit (CTND) on Sunday, October 14, will air coverage from the Vatican of the Canonizations – declarations of sainthood – of Blessed Pope Paul VI, Blessed Archbishop Óscar Romero, and four others. Live coverage will begin at 4 a.m., with rebroadcasts at 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
 
CTND is available to Comcast (Channel 398), Bright House (Channel 16) and Wyandotte Cable (Channel 73) customers in southeast Michigan. It is an affiliate of the Boston-based CatholicTV network. For more information, including a full programming guide, visit www.aod.org/ctnd.


Regarding Rev Robert Witkowski

RevRobertWitkowski1977RevRobertWitkowski2015Effective October 9, 2018, Fr. Robert Witkowski, 83, a senior (retired) priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, has been restricted from any public ministry due to credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors. In addition, his name has been added to the Archdiocese’s list of clergy credibly accused of abuse.

The Archdiocesan Review Board has deemed credible allegations involving Fr. Witkowski, dating back to the early years of his ministry. The Detroit archdiocese shared the allegations with civil authorities. A further determination on the matter now involves a review process required under church (canon) law.

The Archdiocese encourages anyone who has been abused to contact civil authorities. Individuals may also call the Archdiocese’s Victim Assistance Line at (866) 343-8055 or visit protect.aod.org. This website also contains information on removed clergy, reporting protocols, archdiocesan policies and practices.

In addition to service as a hospital chaplain, Fr. Witkowski served in parishes as an associate pastor, a pastor, and an administrator from 1961 to 2013.

Biographical Information:

1961: Ordained                                         

2013: Senior Priest Status (Retired)         

2018: Restricted from Public Ministry       

Assignments:

1991 - 2013: St. Edmund, Warren (later merged with St. Sylvester Parish to form St. Faustina Parish)     

1985 - 1991: St. Raymond, Detroit                                                             

1981 - 1985: St. Lawrence, Utica                                                                

1980 - 1981: Our Lady Star of the Sea, Grosse Pointe Woods                     

1976 - 1980: St. Mary Magdalen, Melvindale                                                       

1969 - 1975: Herman Kiefer/Detroit Osteopathic Hospitals, Detroit         

1966 - 1969: Our Lady Queen of Heaven, Detroit                                               

1961 - 1966: St. Matthew, Detroit

Archdiocese of Detroit Offers Update on Michigan Attorney General Investigation

The Archdiocese of Detroit cooperated fully with law enforcement officials executing a search warrant for clergy files today, as part of the Attorney General investigation into the handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations in Michigan’s seven Catholic dioceses. Such search warrants are an expected part of this process. Officials arrived at the Chancery at around 9 a.m. and left shortly thereafter. We also granted access to files regarding clergy misconduct located in the Archdiocese’s Cardinal Mooney Building, on the seminary campus in Detroit, as well as the St. Joan of Arc Parish office of Monsignor Michael Bugarin, the Archbishop’s Delegate for Clergy Misconduct.
 
As stated earlier, the Archdiocese of Detroit welcomes the Attorney General investigation as part of its continuing commitment to transparency and healing. We have worked closely with authorities from all six counties within our archdiocese since 2002, when we shared past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. We remain committed to protecting everyone – especially children and vulnerable adults – and therefore look forward to working closely with officials to determine if there is more we can do to accomplish this goal.
 
We encourage anyone who has been abused to contact civil authorities. Individuals may also call the Archdiocese’s Victim Assistance Line at (866) 343-8055 or visit protect.aod.org.

Archdiocese welcomes Attorney General investigation into 7 Michigan Catholic dioceses

The Archdiocese of Detroit welcomes the Attorney General's investigation and is prepared to fully cooperate. We have worked closely with authorities from all six counties within our archdiocese since 2002, when we shared past case files involving clergy misconduct and committed to turning over all new allegations regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. The Attorney General investigation is the next phase of our commitment to transparency and healing.

We have full confidence in our safe environment policies put in place and carefully followed for more than 15 years. We remain committed to protecting everyone – especially children and vulnerable adults – and therefore look forward to working closely with officials to determine if there is more we can do to accomplish this goal.

Archbishop Vigneron’s response to USCCB statement on actions addressing clergy sexual abuse

The Communications Department of the Archdiocese of Detroit shares Archbishop Vigneron’s message in support of planned actions by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops addressing clergy sexual abuse and bishop accountability.

To report sexual abuse by clergy or church representatives, go to protect.aod.org.

“I wholeheartedly welcome and support this statement by the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Know that I will continue to work with prayerful diligence in the Archdiocese of Detroit, to ensure we continue our commitment to protecting everyone – especially children – and holding all clergy accountable for their actions, including bishops like myself.

“As a member of the Administrative Committee, I prayerfully accompanied my brother bishops in discussions to develop this message. My input was informed by the many letters I have received from thoughtful individuals sharing words both of encouragement and critique. I feel the pain of the community and am grateful to those who have urged the Church to embrace true reform.

“As is necessary, this statement presents concrete actions that will lead our Church toward a future of increased accountability and healing. We, the bishops of this country, pledge to establish stronger reporting systems for allegations of abuse against bishops; develop clearer policies regarding bishops who have been removed from ministry; and implement a specific code of conduct for bishops regarding sexual abuse. Lastly, we reiterate our full support of an investigation into the conduct of former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

“As encouraged as I am by these announcements, I would like to recall a statement I made earlier this summer, which remains true today: ‘We can never become complacent.’ Here in the Archdiocese of Detroit, we must view the actions of the USCCB as inspiration, not as a finish line. To that end, I have asked all priests in the Archdiocese to prayerfully discern our ongoing efforts to prevent clergy sexual abuse in our communities and to accompany victim-survivors on the path toward healing. Later this month, I will meet with priests to hear in-person their thoughts and advice. This input, along with words shared by the faithful, will help shape further adjustments and additions to our diocese’s policies on confronting the crime and sin of sexual abuse. I will share those updates with you in the future.

“The USCCB statement begins with a powerful quote used at the ordination of every bishop: ‘Keep watch over the whole flock in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you to shepherd the Church of God.’ It is with great shame and sorrow that I meditate on the fact that too many leaders of our Church abandoned that vow when they failed to ‘keep watch’ over the most vulnerable in their flocks. I join my brother deacons, priests and bishops in prayer and penance over these evil acts, and I embrace the call for concrete actions. Please pray for me during this time, and be assured of my prayers for you.”

The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit

Open letter from the Honorable Michael J. Talbot, Chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board, on the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the Archdiocese of Detroit

With the hope of healing for those who have been abused by members of the clergy – and in response to questions from the faithful – the Department of Communications shares an open letter from the Honorable Michael J. Talbot, Chair of the Archdiocesan Review Board, on the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

To report sexual abuse by clergy or church representatives, go to protect.aod.org.


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Recent reporting on the scourge of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church provides a timely catalyst to review the practices and policies in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Questions and answers, such as: What happens here? How are complaints of the sexual abuse of minors by clergy processed in the Detroit archdiocese? And by whom? As chairman of the Archdiocesan Review Board, which considers all such complaints and then advises Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron, I would like to share with you how we have handled cases here for many years. I also will describe our outreach efforts to the victims of clergy sexual abuse and our extensive and ongoing efforts to promote safe environments.

Prior to the June 2002 meeting of the U.S. Bishops in Dallas, when the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted, the Detroit archdiocese reconstituted its review board. (An earlier version of the review board was established in 1988, when the archdiocese became one of the first dioceses to implement a policy on the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.) I accepted the role of chairman of the independent board formed in 2002, and continue in that same role today. My current fellow members include a retired prosecutor, a psychologist, a health care executive, a former superintendent of Catholic schools and an archdiocesan pastor.

In the spring of 2002, the archdiocese also signed voluntary agreements with the prosecutors from all six counties within its boundaries to share case files of priests accused of sexual misconduct in previous years. In some cases, those files involved complaints of abuse that occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. Four criminal prosecutions resulted from the archdiocese sharing its files.

Importantly, this agreement with prosecutors continues to this day. Since 2002, every complaint that comes in, regardless of its source or the date of the alleged activity, is reported to civil authorities. No complaints are held back, pre-screened or disregarded. The archdiocese fully cooperates with law enforcement.

Similarly, complaints are considered by the Review Board. That process usually includes an independent investigator whose findings are forwarded to the Review Board. We currently work with two investigators: a retired police detective and a retired prosecutor. If the Review Board finds a complaint credible, it sends notice to the archbishop, who will forward the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which reviews all cases involving the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy. The archdiocese considers a complaint to be credible if it has a “semblance of truth,” meaning it appears to be or could possibly be true.

No priest or deacon with a credible complaint against him is allowed to continue in active ministry during the time his case is under review by the Church or civil authorities. Those priests who are restricted and/or removed from ministry are monitored by a retired parole officer to ensure compliance with the strict limitations on their public ministry.

If an allegation against a priest or deacon is found to be credible, his name is posted on the archdiocesan website at protect.aod.org. He may also receive a permanent penalty of living a life of prayer and penance or dismissal from the clerical state, also called laicization. In either case, he may no longer represent himself as a priest or deacon, can no longer wear clerical attire and may not exercise any form of church ministry.

The archdiocese has publicly posted the names of restricted and/or removed priests and deacons for more than 15 years. Current practice also includes notifying the parishes in which the clergy in question served, as well as local media.

Complaints come to the Detroit archdiocese by verbal report via the 24/7 toll-free victim assistance line, 866-343-8055, or in writing to vac@aod.org. There are no deadlines or time limits on those who wish to make a complaint; it does not matter if the abuse occurred five, 15 or more than 50 years ago. Every effort is made by the Victim Assistance Coordinator – a credentialed social worker – to assist with healing and counseling for those who have been abused. If requested and helpful, the archbishop or his priest-delegate will meet with the victim.

We recognize that the best approach to addressing abuse is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Since 2002, the archdiocese has implemented a number of safe environment programs, all designed to identify situations that could leave a child vulnerable to the methods of sexual offenders and to emphasize the critical steps that must be taken to prevent and report the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

The program for adults, called Protecting God’s Children, is mandatory for all clergy, church representatives, employees and volunteers – all those who work with children and vulnerable adults. There are also similar, age-appropriate, personal safety programs for grade school, middle school, high school and religious education students. They go by such names as Circle of Grace, Called to Serve, Called to Protect and Think First and Stay Safe.

Since 2002, more than 101,000 adults have been trained through these programs. In addition, each year we provide training for the 29,000 students in our Catholic K-12 schools and the 39,000 in Religious Education.

The archdiocese also regularly educates church and school personnel about mandatory reporting. In Michigan, professionals required to report their suspicions of child abuse or neglect to state authorities include clergy, school teachers, counselors and social workers.

Our highest priority is those who have suffered from clergy abuse. We recognize the deep trauma from their experiences, and we understand it may take a long time before an individual is ready to come forward. No matter how long it has been, we are here to listen and try to be of assistance.

Each meeting of the Review Board begins with a prayer first used in 2011 by the Archbishop of Dublin. I would like to conclude by sharing that prayer with you:

Lord,
We are so sorry 
for what some of us did to your children:
treated them so cruelly, 
especially in their hour of need.
We have left them with a lifelong suffering.
This was not your plan for them or us.
Please help us to help them.
Guide us, Lord.
Amen.

           
Respectfully,
Judge Michael J. Talbot (Ret.)
Chair, Archdiocesan Review Board