TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger, who began leading the Diocese of Tucson last year, issued a lengthy statement about the challenges facing the Catholic Church.
Weisenburger’s letter came after Pope Francis met with leaders in the U.S. on Thursday, Sept. 13.
The Associated Press reported Pope Francis accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield and authorized an investigation into allegations Bransfield sexually harassed adults.
The revelation was the latest twist in an incredible turn of events in the U.S. church that began with the June 20 announcement U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick had been accused of groping a teenage altar boy in the 1970s.
Also in June, a Pennsylvania grand jury caught the world’s attention with its report. According to the grand jury, church leaders covered up child sex abuse by priests there for 70 years. The report said more than 300 priests were protected.
Another damning report came out Wednesday, claiming 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014.
Since the crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, dioceses around the country have dealt with similar revelations of widespread sexual abuse, with many of them forced to come clean by aggressive plaintiffs' attorneys, assertive prosecutors or relentless journalists.
In a few instances, namely in Tucson and Seattle, dioceses voluntarily named names.
Bishop Weisenburger denounced the priests' actions and said he believes the Pennsylvania report to be truthful and accurate.
“The wounds caused by sinful and criminal clergy to innocent minors are open and festering, and there is no one more troubled or angry about the contents of the Pennsylvania report than I,” he wrote. “The actions of the priests offending minors in the report are criminal as well as sinful. The most honest and credible approach of our Church’s leadership at this point is to apologize and acknowledge the evil.”
Many of the cases from the Pennsylvania and Germany reports were from many years ago, something Bishop Weisenburger mentioned.
Bishop Weisenburger also said no active priest in the Diocese of Tucson have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors.
“An initial fact revealed clearly in the Pennsylvania Report is that of the 301 perpetrators, only two are from the last ten years,” he wrote. “This mirrors our experience here in the Tucson Diocese. The vast majority of allegations in the Pennsylvania report are from decades ago—a time frame in which our secular culture experienced the so-called ‘sexual revolution’ and assured us that sexual acts had little intrinsic meaning.”
Bishop Weisenburger also talked about how the Diocese of Tucson handles any sexual abuse allegations.
"Crimes cannot be treated in the same manner as sins," he wrote. "Crimes must be reported to the police for investigation and potential prosecution. In May 2002, Bishop Manuel Moreno and Barbara LaWall, Pima County Attorney, entered into an agreement regarding the handling of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy. It remains in force.
"It requires all clergy and employees of the Diocese to report any suspected child abuse to the Pima County Attorney’s Office and is sent to the appropriate county within the boundaries of the Diocese of Tucson. Moreover, any allegations of sexual abuse of minors reported directly to the Diocese are required likewise to be forwarded immediately to the Pima County Attorney’s Office which is then sent to the appropriate county and the appropriate law enforcement agency."
Bishop Weisenburger’s full letter can be read HERE or below.