Says transparency, compassion and God’s grace are keys to a culture of respect
Catholic Archbishop Roger Schwietz of the Anchorage Archdiocese led an annual march through the state’s largest city calling for an end to domestic violence and abuse. Several hundred people attended, including Catholics from the archdiocese.
The March 27 event was part of the statewide “Choose Respect” campaign initiated by Governor Sean Parnell in 2009 in order to create a “culture of respect to bring about safer Alaska homes and stronger families.” Parnell has decried the “epidemic” of domestic violence, child sexual abuse and sexual assault in Alaska. According to the administration, from 2001-2011, Alaska State Troopers responded to and/or investigated 40,796 cases of domestic violence, 5,484 cases of sexual abuse of a minor and 4,483 cases of sexual assault.
This year, Choose Respect marches and rallies were held in more than 150 cities and villages across Alaska.
Following the Anchorage march, Archbishop Schwietz delivered the keynote address at a rally in Town Center. As a leader in the Catholic Church, he expressed shame over the “past evil actions” committed by some clergy and lay associates.
“Instead of upholding the dignity of others, they have chosen to abuse and disrespect,” he said. “I sincerely apologize to anyone who has been hurt by these people.”
“We choose respect in the Catholic community by admitting our failure to protect, to keep our people safe,” he added. “But we also choose respect by doing everything possible today to make our communities safe for all.”
The Catholic Church has put in place numerous systems to safeguard those who are vulnerable to abuse.
Archbishop Schwietz reassured those who suffer abuse in any venue. He explained that in the Catholic Church, “Our core belief is the fundamental dignity of every human person.”
“I have learned from survivors that they want to be believed,” he said. “We believe you. They want healing and reconciliation. My deepest desire is that we in the religious community can help with that healing, to assist survivors to move from shame to a place of hope.”
Archbishop Schwietz said that “through honesty and transparency and compassion, we can build a world, a society that lives by mutual respect,” adding, “May God grant success to our efforts.”