Archbishop to clergy abuse survivors: ‘I am so very, very sorry’

Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron pauses to pray during a Mass at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in this file photo. Referencing the latest reports of clergy sex abuse and predatory behavior in the Church, Archbishop Vigneron in his homily Sept. 9 at the cathedral apologized to the victim-survivors and expressed his hope that the community, including himself, will remain “open” to hearing God speak and “open” to his providence in these challenging times. (Archdiocese of Detroit file photo)

Speaking personally at cathedral, archbishop expresses remorse at abuse, resolve to listen

DETROIT — Speaking solemnly to Massgoers at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament on Sept. 9, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron apologized to victims of clerical sex abuse and pledged to listen closely to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the crisis.

Reflecting on the Scriptures, in which Jesus opens the ears of the deaf man, Archbishop Vigneron said the current crisis in the Church is a challenge for all Catholics — but especially bishops and priests — to be “open” again to receiving the healing balm of Christ.

“I have in these last weeks found it very difficult to have my ears opened as we live through this latest crisis in the Church: the crisis of sexual abuse of minors and the crisis of predatory behavior by the Church’s pastors,” Archbishop Vigneron said in his homily. “This is not an easy call, an easy message for me to receive. But I recognize that what I should hear and what I hope God lets me hear, and so I do, is first of all to apologize, to say once again how deeply, deeply sad I am for what has happened.”

With emotion in his voice, the archbishop turned his attention to those who have been hurt by abuse in the Church, saying he feels a personal call “to make atonement, to perform acts of prayer and self-sacrifice” for such wounds, which cause pain to Jesus himself.

“I want to apologize to all of those who have been hurt, certainly to the whole people of God and to my brother priests, whose relationship with their people has been so wounded, but above all, to the victim-survivors and their families, who have received wounds that only Christ can heal. I am so very, very sorry,” the archbishop said.


Two days earlier, the Archdiocese of Detroit released a letter from retired Judge Michael J. Talbot, chairman of the Archdiocesan Review Board, detailing the process of how complaints of sexual abuse are handled in the Archdiocese of Detroit. The archdiocese in late August also debuted a new website, protect.aod.org, designed to consolidate resources and increase transparency in sexual abuse reporting, investigation and victim assistance.

Archbishop Vigneron said as difficult as it is to digest the “tragic tales of wrongdoing, of evil” in the Church, God will use such circumstances to purify and cleanse his people and to “bring us to a new place where we can serve Him and glorify Him.”

“I hear in these events God calling me to renew again my efforts to be a good bishop, to oversee my Church, to do right by my people, to start over once more, to examine my conscience, and to try all the harder with His help,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “And I hear Jesus in all of this calling me to trust him, because without that confidence in his power, I would be lost.”

Even when the Church’s pastors are unfaithful, the archbishop added, God remains faithful and deserves praise and thanks.

“This man who was the object of the Gospel miracle was deaf and mute. After he was able to hear, he was able to speak. And after we let God open our ears to hear Him in the midst of this very dark time, we will be able to speak the same things, the same word that was so eloquently said by Blessed Solanus: ‘Blessed be God in all His designs,’” Archbishop Vigneron said.

“Yes, even on Sept. 9, 2018, as horrible as the news is and as hurt as we are, and as raw as our feelings are and as aware as we are of the hurt that has been done to others through abuse and predatory behavior, we give God thanks and praise. ‘We adore you O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.’”

After Mass, the cathedral parish distributed black and white bands urging parishioners to pray for victims of abuse and for healing in the Church.

Sharamee Miller, a cathedral parishioner, said there’s “no good way to explain the heartbreak,” but added “I do appreciate the archbishop apologizing.”

Dona Reynolds, a member of St. Joan of Arc Parish in St. Clair Shores who attended the cathedral Mass, also said she appreciated the archbishop’s sentiments, but acknowledged there’s still much to be done.

“I appreciate that he’s addressing it,” Reynolds said. “I’m not sure why it’s gone on so long – it’s upsetting. But I’m open to the archbishop’s invitation to pray.”


Judge Talbot’s letter

Read an open letter from the Honorable Michael J. Talbot, chairman of the Archdiocesan Review Board, on the processing of sexual abuse complaints in the Archdiocese of Detroit.