Dear St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parishioner and Friends of Seton,
It has been a very difficult summer for the Church with the revelation of misconduct and abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the shocking grand jury report released by the attorney general of Pennsylvania. Seldom have I felt so discouraged. I do not know what the future holds for the Church. But it is clear that our past cannot be our future and radical reform is needed. I took a couple of days to read the Report and the details of the abuse and the cover-up by the bishops were heart-wrenching and sickening. There is no defense of the indefensible. Nor do I have any desire to try to defend any of it.
I would be appalled and embarrassed by the idea of a single act of harm to a child by a fellow clergy member, but the proportions of this Report makes my shock and shame nearly overwhelming.
We do a lot of youth work at our parish, including our altar server program, music ministry, middle school and high school youth ministry, faith formation, mission trips, service days, vacation bible school, children's liturgy of the word, retreats, and sacramental preparation.
Parents who entrust us with the care and well-being of their children who participate in these ministries may well be having new concerns in light of the revelations about past incidences of abuse in the Church. You may ask, “What is Seton Parish doing to ensure that my children are safe’? I want every parishioner and community member to know that every staff member on our campus considers your child’s safety our highest priority. Therefore, the following measures are in place; they have been in effect since 2002:
Employee Background Checks and Training
Our parish employees undergo the following investigative background checks before they are hired and again routinely throughout their employment:
- Thorough criminal investigative background check conducted by a third party;
- Finger printing procedures;
- Sexual harassment and abuse recognition and reporting training;
- Acknowledgement and signature of compliance with Archdiocesan Code of Conduct.
Volunteer Background Checks and Training
Volunteers in our parish ministries, Faith Formation and Youth Ministry must be compliant with VIRTUS for the Protection of Children and Youth, which provides training on recognizing and reporting abuse. Background checks are conducted for all volunteers who have substantial contact with children. If it is discovered that an individual has been accused of or committed child abuse, that person is permanently excluded from ministry, employment, and volunteer service. If a volunteer or employee applicant fails or refuses to complete any part of the screening process, that person will not serve as a volunteer in any capacity at Seton Parish.
Training or screening offered by any other organizations such as Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts, Little League, area public schools, area athletic organizations, other dioceses, or federal agencies may not be substituted for this Archdiocesan Children and Youth Protection background check and training.
Under Maryland law any person who has reason to believe a child has been subjected to abuse must report the suspected abuse to civil authorities, even if the potential victim is now over 18 years old and even in cases where the alleged perpetrator is deceased. If you, a family member, or someone you know is or was a victim of abuse now or in the past, I implore you to report it to local law enforcement. If the abuse is occurring now, immediately call 911.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore complies with Maryland laws requiring reporting suspected child abuse to civil authorities. If someone associated with the Church, including clergy, employees, or volunteers of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is suspected of abuse, then the suspected abuse must also be reported to the Archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth at 410-547-5438 or the Victims Assistance Line at 1-866-417-7469.
I pray that the Holy Spirit will use this dark moment to purify and bring about a holier Church. I pray for victims whose lives have been forever changed and for the many good people whose confidence in the Church has been shattered. For my part, I promise to work every day to the best of my ability to care for the spiritual needs of the people of this parish and to help the young people in its faith formation, experience the goodness and love of God in a wholesome and safe environment
In closing, by way of this email, I want to apologize to you for how the institutional church and clergy have failed you over and over again in this regard. As a priest I owe you an apology for these actions of clergymen who took advantage of and hurt children. My apology won't make anything right, but I hope you know by it that I am deeply sorry for your hurt.
Father Paul Sparklin