BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Louanne Payne is the diocese’s Pastoral Assistance Coordinator, which means she answers the hotline for callers to report abuse by someone acting in the name of the Church.
Payne explained that when a space is named after someone, or their picture is displayed in a prominent place, “it is a way of honoring that person.”
“For obvious reasons, it would trigger a victim/survivor when they see their abuser displayed in such an honorary manner,” she told The Western Kentucky Catholic on Nov. 10. “For some, simply mentioning the name of their abuser triggers pain. To have them recognized in such an external way could certainly cause more harm to those who have already been deeply hurt.”
Payne said that having these public displays, “which quite conceivably can cause harm, is contradictory to the Church’s goal of offering hope and healing.”
On Sept. 21, 2020, upon the recommendation of the Priests’ Council, Bishop Medley approved a policy for public displays involving priests who have been permanently removed from ministry under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002.
The policy, which was effective immediately, says that if a picture is displayed in a parish or Catholic school, which depicts a priest who was permanently removed from ministry under the Charter, that picture must be removed immediately.
The policy also states that if a building, room or other space is named after a priest who was permanently removed from ministry under the Charter, that the space is to be renamed “using the name of a saint chosen by the parish/school” and approved by the bishop.
Furthermore, the policy says that any buildings, rooms and so forth are to be named after saints and the name chosen by the parish/school must be approved by the bishop.
The policy also outlines a guide for when a parish or Catholic school is assembling a history or anniversary booklet. When doing so, the booklet must now be cleared by the bishop.
“All pictures and editorial comments about a priest permanently removed from ministry under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People will be removed, but the name will be retained as a part of history,” states the policy.
Specific cases will be handled by the bishop, the policy explains.
Bishop William F. Medley told the WKC on Nov. 9 that this policy was approved by “consensus by the Priests’ Council.”
He said some pastors had expressed concerns after someone had noticed displayed photos of priests who had been removed from ministry.
He acknowledged that many of the priests in question, who have been permanently removed from ministry under the Charter, may have accomplished some good during their time.
“But they fell short of their promise to protect children,” said the bishop.
He explained that every parish will be asked to assess photos that are displayed, and every pastor and parish council will need to look at this.
“We’re trying to respond with sensitivity to that reality,” said the bishop.
Payne said the Catholic Church is “working hard” to recognize the “hurt caused by clergy sexual abuse and offer pastoral outreach to those who have been harmed.”
“I believe this is one step Bishop Medley and our local Church is taking to acknowledge that hurt and offer healing to those victim/survivors,” she said. “This policy is a visible way in which the Diocese of Owensboro can show it cares and is willing to help those impacted by clergy sexual abuse.”
The full policy may be accessed at owensborodiocese.org/diocesan-policies under Administration/Finance.
Originally printed in the December 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic