I am so enraged by what has happened in the Catholic Church. Clergy have taken advantage of their power and their positions as God’s messengers to prey on children and adults for their own personal pleasures. The infrastructure and leadership of the Church has excused, marginalized, and flat-out covered up these abuses for decades (and centuries). There is something that makes me sick to my stomach about the entire situation.
I have heard people say “well, there is abuse in every organization and in general, so it is no different here in the Church” or “it is not happening as much now”. I do not accept these excuses. The Catholic Church is supposed to be a refuge from the hurt and pain of the world, a place of love, acceptance, healing. The fact that “people” use our faith in God to perpetrate such unspeakable acts, and then others would use that same faith to cover up the abuse in the name of protecting the church, is simply unacceptable. Even once is once too many times. No more.
The time has come to cast open the doors of secrecy and clericalism and shine the light of righteousness into the church. The only way that will happen, however, is if we, who all love this Church so very much, are willing to come together for the sake of our Faith, for the sake of the Eucharist, and for the sake of Jesus Christ. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops released the below statement:
This is only a beginning. Consultation with a broad range of concerned parents, experts, and other laity along with clergy and religious will yield additional, specific measures to be taken to repair the scandal and restore justice. We humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.
As these initiatives get underway, the Administrative Committee invites each of our brother bishops to join us in acts of prayer and penance. This is a time of deep examination of conscience for each bishop. We cannot content ourselves that our response to sexual assault within the Church has been sufficient. Scripture must be our guide forward, “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22).
In all of this, we do not want anyone – ourselves included – to lose sight of those who have suffered from those who have acted or failed to act as the Gospel demanded. For survivors of sexual abuse, these days may re-open deep wounds. Support is available from the Church and within the community. Victims Assistance Coordinators are available in every diocese to help you find resources. We are grateful to hundreds of dedicated people who, since the adoption of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, have been working with the Church to support survivors and prevent future abuse.
To anyone who has been abused, never hesitate to also contact local law enforcement. If you don’t feel comfortable for any reason with the Church providing help, your diocese can connect you with appropriate community services. With compassion and without judgement, the bishops of the United States pledge to heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us.
Acting in communion with the Holy Father, with whom we once again renew our love, obedience, and loyalty, we make our own the prayer of Pope Francis in his August 20 letter to the people of God, “May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our resolve courageously to combat them.”
So, now it is up to us, the lay people of the church. This is a storm that can only be weathered by our commitment to the Church and to Jesus. He taught us that all life needs to be respected and preserved, from conception to natural death, in migration and poverty, in loneliness and hunger. He taught us above all things to bring love, healing and the Good News into the world. We must take the resolve Jesus had to die for us and bind ourselves to our Mission: To Know, To Love and To Serve God in His Church and Our Community. As angry as I am, I still put on my Mission Statement bracelet every single morning with a special prayer to help me live it out in all my words and actions every single day, no matter what may come.
In order to accomplish this mission, we must take time to process what has transpired and how we will ensure it never happens again within our Church. We need safe places and relationships to face and respond to the Catholic Church Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis. We need opportunities to gather to reflect, pray, and listen to each other. These places need to be safe in every way – psychologically, spiritually, and physically — because it’s risky and vulnerable to sort things out in community through conversations.
St. John will be hosting our Four Courageous Conversations, a facilitated listening and feedback session on the Sexual Abuse Scandal, on Thursday, November 8, at 6 PM, and Saturday, November 10, at 9 AM. These identical sessions will give us a chance to voice our reactions and our purposeful responses to these inexplicable acts. You will only need to attend one. More information will be forthcoming, including the RSVP link to ensure we have the proper resources for each session.
St. John lives out this mission in every facet of our church, including ensuring the protection of every person that steps foot on our campus. We have the strongest and most stringent policies for the safety of our Parish Family. Not a single person, clergy or lay, is authorized to perform ministry here unless they have been background checked and Safe Environment Trained. We have instituted crowd management certification for our ministries and groups to ensure everyone understands “situational awareness”, so if you see something, say something. We do not allow weapons of any kind on our campus except by an authorized, on-duty law enforcement officer. We are placing surveillance cameras across our entire campus, both inside and out. We have invested in a full-campus access control system. There are many, many other measures we are taking. But why are we making the safety of our Parish Family such a priority?
The Catholic Faith is built on love, joy, respect, and mercy. Pope Francis has called us all to holiness through those edicts. We need to provide the mechanisms to showcase and involve others in our faith, and we need to start with the illustration that we are a safe place. A safe place to have children playing basketball. A safe place for an 87-year-old to have lunch with friends. A safe place for families and grandparents to enjoy an afternoon together with our community. A safe place to pray alone or in Mass. That is why we have accomplished what we have and will continue with making St. John as safe as possible.
Yes, I am mad, but I am not walking away. If anything, the entire situation has steeled my resolve to be part of the solution and make the Catholic Church what it always should have been, the healer for all of us broken and hurting in the world and the joyous place for communion.
Please join me.