DUBLIN — As pressure mounts over how Pope Francis will engage the Church’s clerical sexual abuse crisis during his trip to Ireland this weekend, a papal advisor on Wednesday said she’s “infuriated and embarrassed” at what’s happened over the last several weeks.
American laywoman Teresa Kettelkamp, a member of the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors and a former Illinois state police colonel and later director of the U.S. Bishops’ Child Protection Office, said that having served in Church leadership for years, she feels, “I have failed.”
“How could I have led this office in the bishops’ conference, and then find out that a cardinal [Theodore McCarrick] was found guilty?” she asked.
Speaking at a press conference during the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, Kettelkamp said it’s possible the papal commission will look into the latest developments in the abuse saga, including the Pennsylvania grand jury report, the ongoing crisis in Chile, and the McCarrick case.
McCarrick resigned from the college of cardinals after accusations that he molested a minor while a priest in New York were found to be “credible and substantiated.”
Last week, a Grand Jury Report in Pennsylvania highlighted the abuse of over 1,000 minors by some 300 priests in the past seven decades, implicating several serving bishops – including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., during his time as the bishop of Pittsburgh – in covering up the incidents.
Due to the allegations, Wuerl pulled out from the World Meeting of Families, where he was set to give Wednesday’s keynote speech. He was replaced by Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh in Ireland.
“Having read the grand jury report, I still don’t know if I have all the facts,” she said. “What are the facts, what did the Church know and what didn’t it, what did it do and not do? How could all of this have happened?”
“Personally, it infuriates me and embarrasses me,” she said. “All of us Catholics in leadership feel deeply disappointed over what we’ve done and what we’ve failed to do. It’s hard sometimes to hold your head up high when you see the failures. It’s sad. I have no words, except to say that we’ll try to do better.”
She was speaking along with Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin; Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect for the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life organizing the World Meeting of Families; Father Tim Bartlett, Secretary General of the World Meeting of Families; and Dr. Mary Aiken, an expert on cybercrime at Europol.
Earlier that day, Kettelkamp shared a panel on safeguarding minors online that was moderated by Aiken.
Reiterating some of what she’d said in her earlier presentation, Kettelkamp told reporters that the Catholic Church has the obligation to protect children because each person “is made in the image and likeness of God.”
“If we believe in the sanctity of life, we have a moral responsibility to protect our children, and parents have a moral responsibility to talk to them about the risks they face,” she said. “Everybody needs to be involved in protecting children.”
Pope Francis will be in Dublin Aug. 25-26, to close the World Meeting of Families.