Child safety of highest priority to the diocese

"Never again" were the words of Pope Francis shared by Bishop Cote to describe the scourge of child abuse in his recent open letter to the Diocese of Norwich and to the readers of The Day. In keeping to that pledge, Bishop Cote was pleased to meet with a reporter from The Day to help with any follow-up questions and further updates ("Bishop Cote answers questions about renewed sexual abuse crisis in the church," Sept. 23).

Knowing how intensely important the subject of preventing child abuse is to everyone in your newspaper audience — to everyone — I would like to add some information to help your readers be more fully informed. There were several points of context shared with the reporter that did not appear in the article mentioned. I appreciate the opportunity to now include them. 

One of the critical missing pieces in the referenced Sunday article is the fact that the Diocese of Norwich, for over a decade, has had a comprehensive program of encouraging past victims of abuse to come forward. This program has been implemented through announcements in English and Spanish, including a reporting line conspicuously placed in every issue of the diocesan newspaper, with its circulation of 30,000; in posters in schools and churches; on the home page of the diocesan website; and on special edition publications. The diocese has made it clear and accessible for all who have a concern to call and please let us know. We can and we want to help. 

The Diocesan Office for Safe Environments has for over a decade implemented extraordinary child protection policies that are second to none for any institution responsible for the care and protection of children and young or vulnerable adults. These measures include extensive background checks and training for all employees and volunteers in the diocese, and annual independent audits by a third-party which verifies the effectiveness of current programs and procedures, ensuring child safety across the diocese. 

The printed article reported incorrect dates of Bishop Daniel P. Reilly’s time as bishop of Norwich. This was later corrected in the online report. To place the dates in the correct order, Bishop Reilly was the third bishop of Norwich, from 1975 to 1994. The Most Reverend Daniel A. Hart was the fourth bishop of Norwich, from 1995 to 2003. The Most Reverend Michael R. Cote is the fifth and current Bishop of Norwich, having been installed May 14, 2003. 

One of the most relevant items not reported is the recent news of the plan being drafted by the administrative committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, following the results of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, to dedicate themselves to holding those church officials, administrators and bishops accountable for inaction at the time of the first surfacing of misconduct. 

We all share with The Day’s readers the number one overriding concern — child safety. The pain and compassion for victims of abuse — each victim — is deeply and forever with all of us in the church. The U.S. bishops and our bishop will continue the comprehensive child protection programs in place and in addition will be addressing next steps as they pertain to accountability at the November USCCB meeting in Baltimore. Bishop Cote will be reporting to all immediately as concrete next steps are ready to be put into action. 

If you would like to know more about the Safe Environments Program and the steps being undertaken by the USCCB, visit NorwichDiocese.org.

Wayne Gignac is director of communications for the Norwich Diocese.

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