The Diocese of Arlington was
first established on August 13, 1974.
The Diocese comprises the 7 cities and 21 counties in the northern part
of the Commonwealth. During the years
between 1974 and 2002, calls from victims/survivors of sexual abuse were
directed to diocesan officials for response.
In 2002, the Bishops of the
Catholic Church met in Dallas and approved the Charter for the Protection of
Children and Young People.
The Charter for the
Protection of Children and Young People calls for a commitment to creating a
safe environment for children and youth within the Catholic Church. It also requires dioceses to reach out to
victims/survivors of sexual abuse and their families and to provide a program
for their healing. As Church, we must
apologize for the pain and harm caused to victims and offer help for the
future. But, just what did this mean? The Charter states, “As bishops, we have
acknowledged our mistakes and our roles in that suffering, and we apologize and
take responsibility again for too often failing victims and the Catholic people
in the past. From the depths of our
hearts, we bishops express great sorrow and profound regret for what the
Catholic people have endured. ” (P. 3 Charter for the Protection of Children
and Young People.) In the Diocese of
Arlington, we decided that our priorities should be prayer and spiritual
guidance, faith, emotional healing and support for those who have been abused
and their families.
Each Diocese had to struggle
with these issues and determine how best to adopt a plan to bring about the
necessary healing. In 2002, Most Rev.
Paul S. Loverde was the Bishop of Arlington.
Rev. Mark S. Mealey, O.S.F.S . was the Vicar General for
Administration. When Bishop Loverde
returned from Dallas, he and Father Mealey had many discussions about what this
program might look like in the Diocese of Arlington. One
day, I received a call from Father Mealey asking Dave Cavanaugh and I to attend
a meeting with him to discuss this new task before the diocese. My recollection is that we had several
meetings with Father to discuss the Charter and how we might meet its
requirements. We began to identify lay
people and religious in the Diocese of Arlington and neighboring dioceses who
had expertise in this subject. Our
quest took us to interviews with Rev. Stephen Rossetti, Director of St. Luke’s Institute in Silver Spring,
Maryland, a treatment center for men and women accused of abusing children and
adults; Childhelp in Fairfax, Virginia,
a facility where children who were abused were brought to receive medical care,
therapy and other needed services; various physicians, attorneys, therapists;
social workers serving in various agencies such as Child Protective Services,
to whom our staff might eventually be making reports; members of the Virginia
state legislature responsible for the laws of our Commonwealth as well as
therapists who provided care for abused children. We visited some other dioceses, namely the
Archdiocese of Washington and the Dioceses of Richmond and Wilmington. The focus of our questions was what should
this program look like; what components should it contain and how can we help
our vulnerable children and adults.
After much discussion, we
began with Mass. On June 30, 2004,
Bishop Loverde offered the first Mass to Pray for Healing for Victims Survivors
of Sexual Abuse at St. Thomas More Cathedral.
The Mass was attended by numerous priests and several hundred lay
people. To date, Most Rev. Paul S.
Loverde, Rev. Mark Mealey, O.S.F.S. and Rev. Thomas Ferguson have offered 46
Masses for this intention around the diocese with over 3,000 people in
attendance. Father Mealey and Father
Ferguson have offered 35 Prayer Services with over 595 people attending. The Diocese has also sponsored 35 Support
Groups with 719 people in attendance. At the request of our Survivors Planning
Group, the Diocese of Arlington began to host a yearly Retreat for
Victims/Survivors. To date, we have held
9 Retreats with 189 people in attendance.
In addition, our program
consists of referrals for therapy and spiritual direction. We have a list of therapists around the
diocese who work with victims/survivors of sexual abuse. In addition, we have provided training
sessions for priests and sisters providing spiritual assistance for
victims/survivors of sexual abuse. The
Diocese of Arlington is very grateful for the victims/survivors who have become
a part of our Survivors Planning Group.
These members of our program have met with us periodically and helped us
by suggesting various new programs for our consideration. We are most grateful for their suggestions
The Charter for the
Protection of Children and Young People requires that each Diocese have a
Diocesan Review Board. This Board is
composed of priests, a religious sister and lay people who offer guidance to the Bishop, Safe
Environment Coordinator and Victim Assistance Coordinator.
Over the years since 2002,
the Diocese of Arlington has been very blessed to have the following Victim
Assistance Coordinators serve our victims/survivors. We would like to thank:
Please pray for healing for
our victims/survivors and for those suffering from the pain of sexual