As have other CTA chapters across the country, Call to Action-Rio Grande Valley has identified as one of its major goals to call upon the local diocese, in this case the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, to provide transparency and accountability regarding sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by priests. We have actively pursued this issue since 2003 but have had limited results due, in large part, to Bishop Peña’s lack of public commitment to bring about full disclosure. Given the effects and the gravity of sexual abuse of minors, it is incumbent upon Bishop Peña to actively encourage survivors to come forward and to hold the perpetrators to accountability: legal, moral, and spiritual.
As of February 2007, Bishop Peña has publicly reported 7 priests in the Brownsville Diocese who have had substantial complaints of sexual abuse of minors. The latter figure reportedly covers the period from the early 1970’s to 2003. It is difficult to imagine that these numbers accurately reflect the extent of the problem.
Since June of 2003, we have called upon Bishop Raymundo Peña to provide the following information with no results:
1. How many minors have been victimized, including:
The number of complaints
The number reported to legal authorities
The depositions of all complaints
The number of confidential agreements reached with victims
2. The financial costs, specifically:
Services for victim-survivors
The medical and psychological treatment of offenders
Support given to priests who were put on leave, sick leave, given a new assignment or retired as a result of abuse allegations
The sources of funds to pay these financial costs should be identified clearly
The final cost to the diocese after insurance and other funds were expended
The number of priests against whom substantial complaints have been made
Of this group of priests, the number who are still active in the priesthood
The names of all priests who are known to be perpetrators, even those who have died.
In the near future, another serious issue, which has yet to be addressed by the church and our greater community, is the sexual exploitation of adults by clergy. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made this a goal to address as well.
As part of our goal in working on full disclosure, CTA-RGV has set up a hot line for victims of sexual abuse or exploitation by clergy and will provide psychological care and support of them and their families. You can reach us through this website, or call 1-866-668-1498.