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A letter to the Faithful of the Diocese regarding news story from the Most Reverend Paul J. Swain

29 June 2017 News


 

A letter to the Faithful of the Diocese regarding News Story
The Most Reverend Paul J. Swain
Bishop of Sioux Falls
June 28, 2017

I write to inform you of a news story that was recently reported by the media about an
anonymous letter concerning a non-Charter personnel matter involving a priest of the Diocese of
Sioux Falls and local parish personnel more than two years ago. As you know, personnel matters
pastorally and legally (civil and canonical) require confidentiality to protect all parties, those
who in confidence bring forth complaints and those who are the subject of those complaints.
In a continuation of the transparency our Diocese has offered while I have been bishop, I agreed
to be interviewed by KELO-TV the only media outlet who contacted us about the letter. I
participated in the interview and discussed general Diocesan policy in these kinds of matters. I
did not discuss the alleged facts in this instance or any other instance and made clear our policy
to protect the confidentiality of personnel information.
Let me state emphatically that in accordance with this policy, any allegations in any area
presented by parties who identify themselves are taken seriously, assured confidentiality and
dealt with appropriate to the facts presented. The Diocese offers assistance in obtaining
counseling and spiritual support in any such matter to be used at the discretion of the parties
involved.
For instance when allegations of child abuse by clergy or others are made to the Diocese, the
Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is completely and with firm resolve
implemented including notification of government authorities; these are evil and criminal acts.
And while these issues were discussed in the interview, the complaint that came forward in this
instance was not about child abuse thus Charter protocols did not apply.
The unknown persons who wrote this anonymous letter are likely not the ones who filed the
initial complaint. Rather, these authors with no firsthand knowledge of all the facts, the
appropriate civil and canon law, or how the matter was actually handled, sent additional
anonymous letters to others most of whom have no responsibility in these matters. I am sorry
that they were drawn into this matter when it should have been addressed to me directly. The
people behind these letters never directly contacted me or anyone on the Chancery staff.
The anonymous letter contained a threat, unless I and other Church leaders took certain specified
actions by a certain date, unsubstantiated and derogatory allegations about me, others and the
diocese would be made public. In other words it was a deliberate effort to coerce me and others
to compromise the grave responsibilities of the office of the bishop to protect the rights of all, an
office I hold in stewardship only for a time.
These types of actions are morally and legally reprehensible. I could never in good conscience
dignify the threats or act in accordance with the demands without documented verification of the
claims.
At the time this matter was brought to my attention more than two years ago, an investigation
was conducted and the complaint responded to in ways consistent with Diocesan policy. Outside
counsel was involved in this process and has reviewed how this was dealt with. I was advised
that the Diocese handled the matter appropriately in all material respects.
As in the disposition of any complaint people of good will might disagree with the process used
or how it was ultimately dealt with. But such opinion is often based on an incomplete
understanding of all the facts and legal requirements involved both within and without the
Church. I remain convinced that this matter was appropriately handled at the time and have
received no new information that would lead me to believe otherwise.
Late last week we also learned of recordings that were made of confidential personnel
conversations on Church property. I believe that anonymous and unfounded allegations
potentially destructive to personal reputations and the work of the church to be morally
disheartening and legally disturbing and I could never in conscience dignify the threats or act in
accordance with the demands without substantial verification of the underlying claims.
Because of how these anonymous people have acted in this matter, we are unfortunately
witnessing the release of a public story based on incomplete facts and false accusations. The
anonymous letter writer(s) know this and deliberately chose this course of action to cause the
greatest possible damage to the Church and the individuals involved. Let us rise above this kind
of false witness and continue to act in accordance with what is right and just for all.
I encourage all those who believe that they have been hurt or harmed by anyone acting in any
way in the name of the Church to report their concerns to government officials and/or to the
diocese. I apologize to and ask forgiveness from all who may have been harmed in this way. As
has been true in similar instances over the years all appropriate action will be undertaken to
assure a safe environment, address specific situations and encourage healing.
Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church and Mother of us all, pray for us.


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