Bishop presides over Ceremony of Sorrow at St. Cecilia Catholic Church, apologizes in name of the church for clergy abuse across the country and in the Catholic Diocese of Dallas
By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns told about 200 people at St. Cecilia Catholic Church on Oct. 9 that former law enforcement officials are going through clergy files to determine the suitability of priests serving in the Diocese of Dallas.
The revelation came during a Town Hall meeting that followed a Ceremony of Sorrow that aimed to bring healing caused by the sexual abuse of minors by clergy across the country and, in particular, the St. Cecilia parish community.
In August, the Diocese of Dallas announced that a settlement had been reach with three now-adult men who had said that Father Edmundo Paredes, the longtime pastor at St. Cecilia had sexually abused them more than a decade ago.
The diocese also announced that Father Paredes had been accused of stealing funds from the parish, that he is believed to have fled to his native Philippines and that a private investigator had been hired to locate him, thus far without success.
Videotaping was not allowed at the Town Hall meeting but several of those who spoke said they were saddened, frustrated and angry about the lack of transparency and accountability on the part of clergy and bishops in both Dallas and across the country during this latest sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the church globally.
They also said that too often the laity goes through extended background checks and Safe Environment training but wondered whether clergy must do the same.
Bishop Burns told them that Safe Environment would never be compromised and said that many months ago he told Auxiliary Bishop Greg Kelly, the diocese’s vicar general, that he wanted an outside party to look at priest’s files, including his own, to ensure a safe environment for the Catholic faithful.
St. Cecilia parishioner Oscar Puente told the bishop he has been a faithful parishioner and volunteer for years and was frustrated that the diocese was not transparent in the settlement amount to Father Paredes’ victims.
Januarius Araki, a parishioner at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Duncanville for more than four decades, told the bishop he was angry and disappointed both by the abuses that occurred and by the church’s response.
“The bishops need to be honest with each other,” Araki said following the Town Hall meeting. “Priests are unique people, but they are also this close fraternity. It seems to me they know a lot about each other and what is going on. I would like for there to be more transparency.”
“I’m thinking more from the standpoint of the victims and the survivors. As long as they continue to see the people responsible for what is happening within the church going unpunished – business as usual – I don’t think those people feel satisfied that justice has been done. When you talk about reaching out to the people who have left the church because of these scandals, it will be awfully hard to convince them to come back if they see that things haven’t changed. And by things needing to change, I’m not talking about church doctrine. I’m talking about the people who caused these scandals to happen.”
Araki added that he appreciated the diocese’s effort to hold a town hall meeting.
“I am glad I came,” he said. “I have been feeling kind of hurt and disappointed by all of this. Witnessing the ceremony and listening to the bishop’s words, it was very, very helpful to me.”
Earlier, during the Ceremony of Sorrow, the bishop e stepped to that altar and removed his miter, zuccheto, pectoral cross, ring and placed his crozier and cope on stands before prostrating for several minutes as a symbol of repentance.
He then went to the congregation, sprinkling holy water before returning to altar and revesting before continuing with the service.
Michael Gresham, Texas Catholic Managing Editor, contributed to this report.