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Fargo Bishop Folda: A challenging moment for the Church

Bishop John Folda. Special to the Forum.

In recent weeks we have heard disturbing news of abuse by leaders of the Catholic Church, including a former cardinal and those in Pennsylvania who have served the Church as clergy, religious, and lay employees.

I first must acknowledge the suffering of those who have been victims of abuse by clergy and Church personnel. I can only express my sorrow for their suffering and pray for their healing. I am edified by their courage in coming forward to tell their painful stories.

With all my fellow Catholics, I also express my revulsion at the sinful acts committed by clergy and Church personnel against the faithful — men, women, and children. There is no excuse for such acts, and they bring shame upon us all. No one — including a bishop — should be allowed to abuse the trust placed in them by the faithful.

I wish to reiterate my commitment to respond to any allegation of abuse committed by Church personnel. The Diocese of Fargo will continue to report allegations to civil authorities in accord with the law and respond to the needs of victims in any way we can.

In 2002, measures were enacted throughout the United States to respond to these incidents, and they have been applied rigorously in our diocese. I will continue to insist on background checks, safe environment training, and cooperation with the independent audits conducted in every diocese. I will also continue to rely on our diocesan review board of lay experts, who have served the faithful of our diocese with integrity. Outside investigators have noted the effectiveness of these measures, and even the recent report acknowledges that most of the incidents recounted are from many decades ago.

Some question the credibility of the Church and its leaders in light of recent events, and others have disparaged clergy, religious sisters, and the Catholic faithful in general. While not surprising, such comments are unfortunate and unjust. Despite the failings of some leaders, the vast majority of the Catholic faithful and her clergy have lived their faith with integrity and devotion. They are as sickened by these misdeeds as anyone.

It is an unfortunate fact that acts of abuse are not unique to Catholic clergy, but exist across our entire society. This is not to excuse the sins and crimes that have been reported, but only to put this report in context. There is no such thing as a tolerable rate of abuse; even one act of abuse is absolutely unacceptable.

With all who work on behalf of the Catholic Church, I renew my commitment to the well-being and protection of all our people from those who would do them harm. We will continue to worship and pray, educate the young, serve the needy, and advocate for the common good. We will not allow wrongdoers to deter us from carrying out the mission given to us by Christ. And we will certainly continue to pray and work for healing in the Church and in our society.

Folda is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo