Bishop's Letter

Letter from Bishop Braxton
September, 2007
Exultation of the Holy Cross

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Catholic Bishops in the United States have collectively committed themselves to creating safe environments for children and to take seriously our responsibility that the abuse that occurred in the past will not happen again. My first expression of that commitment as BIshop of Belleville was to go through the Initial Child Protection Training Program and to complete the other components of The Child Protection Policy in the Diocese shortly after my Installation. I appreciate your willingness to go through this process as well and I ask you to enthusiastically support it.

The Diocese of Belleville has created and implanted a program which includes protection from all forms of abuse (sexual, physical, and emotional) and neglect by any clergy, religious or lay person who is working or volunteering under the auspices of the Diocese. The program includes education for all individuals who have substantial contact with children, as well as completing applications, reference checks, and background checks. The program also provides education for the children in our Catholic Schools and Parish Education Programs that will encourage children to say no, to run, to tell and to keep telling if they find themselves in an abusive situation.

When children are victims of abuse it deeply saddens all of us. In Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical letter, Deus Caritas Est, he reflects on the Christian love that we should have for one another, in part by showing respect for every human being. We use this as an opportunity to think about the great gift of love, the dignity of the human person and the gift of sexuality that God has given us. These gifts were not intended to bring harm to our most vulnerable through exploitation.

I encourage anyone who has suspicions that abuse is occurring to contact the Department of Children and Family Services at 800-252-2873. I also urge anyone who has been abused by someone in the name of the church to contact the Department of Children and Family Services, as well as the Victim Assistance Coordinator, Mrs. Lynn Muscarello, at 618-212-1201, or the Diocesan Review Board at 800-640-3044.

I am most grateful for the service that each of you are providing in the Diocese of Belleville to help bestow our Catholic morals and teachings in the children and youth that we serve. Each of you is helping to build up the Body of Christ and the Catholic Church in Southern Illinois by strengthening it through faith, hope, love, and service. Once again, I express my sorrow for the terrible harm that has been done to children and will do all I can to see that no further harm takes place in the years to come.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
+Edward K. Braxton
Bishop of Belleville