Arkansas bishop to lead Mass focused on victims of child sexual abuse

Bishop Anthony Taylor is shown with some of the stained glass windows at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Little Rock in this combination of 2022 file photos. (Background, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe; center, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Frank E. Lockwood)
Bishop Anthony Taylor is shown with some of the stained glass windows at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew in Little Rock in this combination of 2022 file photos. (Background, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Thomas Metthe; center, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Frank E. Lockwood)


Catholics will gather at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock on Sunday to pray for survivors of child sexual abuse.

Bishop Anthony Taylor will lead the Mass for Hope and Healing, which is held each April in Arkansas in conjunction with National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Little Rock diocese's Safe Environment Office sponsors the event, which begins at 5:30 p.m.

Deacon Matthew Glover, the diocese's chancellor for canonical affairs, said Taylor has been involved with the Mass for Hope and Healing since its inception in 2017.

"Anybody who's been Catholic for any period of time knows the kind of impact that this crisis and scandal has had," Glover said. "This Mass is at least an attempt toward the spiritual healing, primarily of victim survivors, but also, of course, the church as a whole, even those who were not direct victims of abuse by clergy."

In 2018, Taylor released a list of a dozen priests once serving in Arkansas who had credibly been accused of child sexual abuse.

None of the abuse had occurred since 2002, he said.

In 2019, following an independent review by an outside firm and additional examination of personnel files, the diocese added another priest and religious brother to the list. In addition, it revealed the names of another seven priests once serving in Arkansas who had been credibly accused in other states.

The current list, which can be found at dolr.org/clergy-disclosure-list, includes the names of 16 priests and religious brothers who have been credibly accused of child sex abuse in Arkansas. It includes the names of 13 other priests once serving in Arkansas who face credible accusations outside the state.

About 700 priests have served in Arkansas during that time, diocesan officials said.

Decades ago, sexual abuse of minors "might have been viewed by some as merely a sexual aberration or a sexual sin," Glover said. "I think in today's day and age, we do much better in viewing that as not just a sin but a crime and an evil crime."

When he released the initial list, Taylor stated in a letter that he wanted to "honor the courage of those who have come forward to share the most painful experiences of their entire life."

"My heart goes out to all who carry deep wounds of this sort," he wrote on Sept. 10, 2018. "It often takes years for victims of trauma to come to terms with the abuse they have suffered and ask for help. It takes much courage to make this admission and it takes trust. And trust is something that gets twisted and manipulated by the abuser, as well as by the institutions that helped protect the abuser."

Taylor said the church must work to create "a safe place where those who have been abused in the past can find understanding, healing and hope."

Anyone with knowledge of sexual abuse by a priest or church worker should call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline, the diocese states on its website. It also asks that the information be shared with Glover or Laura Gottsponer, the diocese's victim assistance coordinator.

"[We're] not perfect, and still have a long ways to go, but we've gotten much better as a church of being transparent and accountable," Glover said. "The expectation now is, if you suspect something, you report it."


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