By Tim Harfmann
Under Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s leadership, the Diocese of Brooklyn is producing an informational video, which pastors will soon be able to share with their parishioners, addressing the recent headlines about the sexual abuse crisis in the Church.
“Information is hard to get out. That’s why I wanted to do this because I knew people did not know what we are doing,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
The video will feature highlights from four gatherings called regional meetings with Bishop DiMarzio and the lay faithful. They took place at four parishes. In all, approximately 1,000 parish leaders attended.
“It’s impossible to reach everybody. But now with these four sessions, we’ll get some of the leadership and then have something that we can use with everyone,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, vicar general and vicar for clergy and consecrated life; Jasmine Salazar, vice chancellor and victim assistance coordinator; and Maryellen Quinn, safe environment coordinator, joined Bishop DiMarzio. Attendees were allowed to ask Bishop DiMarzio any question.
Bishop DiMarzio referred to the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP). Initiated by the diocese last year, survivors could come forward and work with an independent law firm to reach a resolution regarding their claim. Bishop DiMarzio said that program helped the diocese get a better understanding of the scope of the cases that spanned decades. “The fact of the matter is we only knew 14 percent. You cannot cover up what you don’t know. The rest of it was unknown to us,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
Before the question and answer sessions, the audience was presented with important information about the crisis and what the Church has done to prevent sexual abuse.
“These are probably your most informed parishioners, and I’m sure this is the first time some of them are hearing that information. So the general population of parishioners at large — they may be unaware,” said Christopher Spinelli. He’s a parishioner at St. Thomas Aquinas Church.
Data and graphs from an independent study conducted by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice showed the crisis peaked in the 1980s. Also, the majority of abusers were priests who did their seminary studies in the 1950s and 60s. “An epidemic is something has a beginning, a high point, and then it ends. This is the key thing we need to understand, that the sexual abuse in the Church really has extinguished itself,” said Bishop DiMarzio.
Participants were also shown videos, including one with testimonies from sexual abuse survivors within the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Salazar talked about the outreach the Office of Victim Assistance does for survivors and the programs that are in place to help them. “The hope is with this information that’s being shared, more and more will know that if you are a survivor, or come across a survivor, that the message be communicated — you are cared for, and you are not alone,” said Salazar.
After the meetings, the feedback was positive. “It was good to know, the programs that they have for them. I didn’t about that,” said Gloria Dabreo. She’s a parishioner at St. Therese of Lisieux Church.
“I think it was very good that the bishop provided information on the accuracy of what’s actually happening. It’s important for us to get our own information from our bishop and not just through the media,” said Vincent Camastro. He’s a parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus Church.
The informational video will be released in the coming weeks. And for easy access, all of the information will soon be posted on a separate page of the diocese of Brooklyn’s website.