In a letter dated Dec. 20, Bishop Jeffrey Lee of Chicago responded to a shocking report by the attorney general of Illinois:
Late yesterday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a report concluding that the Roman Catholic Church in Illinois has withheld the names of at least 500 priests accused of sexual abuse of children and has, in many instances, failed to conduct appropriate investigations into complaints of sexual abuse by clergy. This latest revelation about abuse in the church has given many faithful Roman Catholics in our region a heavy burden to carry at Christmastime.
In this difficult time, I ask you to join me in praying first for those who have been abused by priests or other church leaders. The betrayal they have suffered too often pervades their lives forever and denies them even the comfort of faith and the assurance of God’s love. May the light and healing mercy of Christ surround them now and forever.
Please also pray for our friends and neighbors who are Roman Catholic, many of whom are struggling to find their way in a church they love and cherish, even as they seek to hold it accountable. Their faithful witness will be essential in helping Catholic leaders come to terms with this news and the dramatic changes that it necessitates. And, finally, please pray for those in our own congregations who have survived abuse and who may be feeling anger, grief and trauma at this news, and for those among us who began their lives as Roman Catholics and may be experiencing particular sadness.
The Episcopal Church is not immune to sexual abuse by clergy and other church leaders. Just last week, we shared a letter that Presiding Bishop Curry and House of Deputies President Gay Jennings have written to the church about a General Convention resolution that, beginning January 1, suspends for three years the canon (church law) that places a time limit on reporting clergy sexual misconduct against adults. (There is no time limit on reporting clergy sexual misconduct against children and youth under age 21.) This step is just one of the many efforts initiated at the most recent General Convention to make the Episcopal Church more responsive and just in matters of sexual abuse and harassment and gender equity.