SAN DIEGO -- Bishop Robert McElroy gathered all 2,500 employees of the San Diego Catholic Diocese Tuesday to announce an expansion of the fight against sexual abuse of children wherever it occurs.
"Confront and stop' child sexual abuse any where you see it," McElroy said.
San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan attended the assembly at the University of San Diego to provide legal counsel to the gathered priests, teachers and administrators on how to confront sexual abuse.
Diocese officials said the U.S. Catholic Church adopted reforms in the early 2000s which have done a lot to lessen cases of child abuse by clergy. However, Pope Francis said much more remains to be done to confront abuse, McElroy said. The pope issued a directive in May challenging bishops around the world to not merely change procedures, but to make changes within the culture of the church.
"The greatest challenge to all of us in the life of the Church regarding the sexual abuse of minors is to transform our culture regarding the nature, scope and effects of the sexual abuse of minors," McElroy told employees of the Diocese. "I’m calling you as an employee of parishes, schools and agencies of the Diocese of San Diego to also report any incident in which you come to a strongly founded belief that a minor is being victimized sexually."
Stephan told the attendees about mandated reporting and the law.
“(Bishop McElroy) has made you -- each one of you -- responsible for safeguarding our children from harm," Stephan said.
Although the law currently does not allow lawsuits against the Diocese for acts of abuse that took place decades ago, the Diocese announced Tuesday that it has established a fund that will begin compensating past victims of priests within the San Diego Diocese starting in September.
“We cannot erase the horror of this history, nor can we restore the shattered souls and hearts of those who have been victimized. But we can move forward as Pope Francis calls us to, utterly resolved to continually expel the sexual abuse of minors from the internal life of the church, and equally resolved to help transform families and society to purge the epidemic of sexual abuse that rages in our midst,” said McElroy.