I am a Promoter of Justice for the Diocese of Tyler, Texas. In that capacity I also serve as Victim Assistance Coordinator. It is not enough for us to put policies and procedures in place. Policies and procedures will not stop abuse.
Sexual abuse of minors did not occur because people thought it was acceptable behavior. It occured because people did not know what warning signs to look for. They didn't recognize the yellow flags of grooming behaviors and crossing boundaries.
Sadly, very often, even the red flags weren't recognized. People did not know what to do when unimaginable things happened. Denial and quick fixes were enough to quickly put things to rest without addressing the real problem.
Sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults is not just a sin, not just a crime — it is evil. Our policies and procedures will help the Church to the extent that we help create an environment of external compliance and internal conversion.
Everyone needs to know what the yellow flags are to watch out for, and we need to break the cycles of grooming and manipulation before they escalate. We need practical ways for people to seek help for themselves or others not only after the abuse has taken place, but as soon as the yellow flags get noticed.
People in the Church and in society need to know more about the realities of abuse. They need to know what to look for and where to turn for help. They need to know that the Catholic Church will help them no matter who has abused them.
I pray you take seriously the opportunity we have to serve the Church by helping victims, and by helping to be catalysts of this transformation in society.
The Maria Goretti Network has been established by people committed to helping victims find healing in the Love of Jesus Christ. It is a lay movement that seeks to reach out to their brothers and sisters and to journey with them along the road back to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.
They find in Maria Goretti a tremendous witness to healing and forgiveness. In her life and death, love was not destroyed by violence. Members of the MGN seek to help other victims through prayer and encouragement to respond to the Grace of the Holy Spirit. They seek healing through acceptance of God's love poured out through the Sacraments.
I pray that this outreach will be an instrument of God's healing Grace for many victims.
Fr. Gavin Vaverek, JCL