Cardinal Donald Wuerl celebrated an April 19 Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle to pray for survivors of abuse and “to draw attention to this evil that persists in our society.”

“We come together at this very special Mass to pray for the healing of victims of abuse,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “The Church has made a strong and concerted effort over the past years to do two things: to make sure that it is rooted out in the Church, [and to] pray for anyone suffering as a result of it. That’s what brings us here to this Mass today.”

The Mass was offered during the April observance of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The cardinal lamented that “even with the gift of Baptism … and even with the benefit of God’s Word and God’s grace, there continues to be human failure.”

The cardinal also noted that that there is healing and renewal in God’s grace, and asked that the faithful pray for survivors of abuse.

“We live in the Baptism of the Lord, we experience that new life in Christ, and we are called always to live that to the very best of our ability and with compassion and love, to see those around us who need that care… so that there is always, in this Church, a sense of healing,” he said.

Cardinal Wuerl also reminded those at the Mass at the Archdiocese of Washington takes seriously allegations of abuse and has a rigid child protection policy.

“Here in this Archdiocese, we can be very proud of the fact that we have had in place good policies, but nonetheless we always have to be aware of those who suffer any type of abuse,” he said.

Those policies the cardinal referred to are outlined in the Archdiocese of Washington’s Child Protection Policy that has been in effect in this archdiocese for more than 30 years.

When the Archdiocese of Washington instituted that policy in 1986, it was one of the first dioceses in the United States to do so. The policy mandates the reporting of abuse allegations to civil authorities, assisting those who have been harmed, and extensive education and training on how to prevent and identify mistreatment of children and youth.

It also requires a thorough background check for all employees and volunteers who have substantial contact with children. The policy requires two forms of background checks – electronic background checks and fingerprinting – on employees, clergy, volunteers and anyone else who works with young people.

The Archdiocese of Washington also makes resources and information about protecting children available online at There, parents will find information on the archdiocese’s child protection efforts, safety tips, how to recognize Internet and cyber bullying and other information.

In addition to that policy, the archdiocese has a Child Protection Advisory Board of predominantly lay experts that advises on and monitors compliance with child protection efforts. The archdiocese also has an established Office of Child Protection.

Courtney Chase, director of the Office of Child Protection, noted that members of the Child Protection Advisory Board were invited to attend the Mass because “our child protection office focuses on all aspects of the healing process (for survivors of abuse), of which prayer is an integral part.”

“This Mass is a time for reflection and a renewal of our commitment to the healing of all survivors of abuse and their families,” Chase said. “Our faith teaches us to turn to God when we are wounded. This Mass sends a message to survivors that they do not have the burden of carrying their cross alone – we are with them.”