Without a doubt the letter from Bishop Sullivan read at all Masses last weekend regarding the abuse of minors and adults by members of the clergy and the poor response to it by bishops was the most difficult I have ever had to read. I hope I will never have to read anything like it again. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for the Bishop to write and all of you to hear.
The shame I feel is immeasurable. Yes, I know I never, could never commit such atrocious crimes. But as a priest it still makes me feel sick and ashamed that it happened at the hands of brother priests; and anger that the subsequent actions of many bishops only made matters worse.
Our Holy Father Pope Francis also wrote an open letter addressing these deplorable sins. If you haven’t read it you can find it on our Facebook page or the Vatican’s website. I have also read letters written by the Archbishops of New York and Washington D.C. and the Bishop of Madison, WI. They all pretty much say the same thing. The words are good and necessary, but they are all incomplete, and in some cases a little dishonest.
In several places they speak of “the Church” as having failed in its obligations. No, uh-uh, sorry…The church hasn’t failed. BISHOPS failed. PRIESTS failed. But not the church. And that’s part of the problem.
When the word church is used many, including the clergy, think immediately of the Pope, Bishops and Priests. But they’re just a part, a very small part, of the church. You, the laity comprise the overwhelming majority. And you, the laity, are not responsible for any of this. This is not your failing; this is not your sin. So please let’s have no more blaming “the church.”
Furthermore, the question now is where we go from here. These statements are not enough. The first thing I think the clergy needs to do is repent. I have asked for a day of atonement to be declared across the Diocese wherein all of our priests led by our Bishop commit to fasting and prayer, culminating with a Holy Hour to which the laity would be invited. If my request is declined, we will still observe such a day here at St. Charles.
It’s not much, perhaps, but it’s a beginning. No matter what we do it’s always a good idea to begin with prayer. Through it may God forgive the guilty and set us in the right direction, so that the Church may be the place of welcome rest, refuge and safety it’s supposed to be for all of God’s people, especially our children.
In His Love,