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Wester apologizes for Pa. abuse, restates his zero tolerance policy

Archbishop John C. Wester

Archbishop John C. Wester

SANTA FE, N.M. — In response to the Pennsylvania grand jury report on the sexual abuse by more than 300 priests, Archbishop John C. Wester, head of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, issued a statement apologizing to the victims and their families.

He described the crimes attributed to priests and former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick as “unspeakable.”

“As I express my sorrow and reiterate my apology to all,” Wester said in the statement, “I once again remind everyone that when it comes to sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has a zero tolerance policy.”

He said that since the early 1990s the diocese has put into place systems and programs to ensure a safe environment for children and young adults.

Among those policies:

• Any clergy who are accused with any shade of credibility are, and will continue to be, immediately removed from ministry.

• All clergy and those religious volunteers and laity who in any way work with children must pass criminal and sex offender background checks on the local and national level.

• The Archdiocesan Independent Review Board, comprised of lay people who come from professional backgrounds with training and expertise in the area of sexual abuse and criminal behavior, conducts investigations of reported sexual abuse and monitors all of our procedures and policies to ensure that we are doing what we say we are doing.

• Victims are immediately offered professional counseling.

In addition, Wester said the diocese follows the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002 and regularly revised.

Annual national audits, which are conducted by a professional, independent and national firm, also help to ensure that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is doing everything in compliance with the charter to keep minors safe, he said.

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