Yes we should be talking about Sex Abuse in Church 8-26-2018

When I was pastor in a parish called Madonna del Sasso, I was involved in the building of a wonderful parish hall. It was very exciting for me to see this building come up and how it met the needs of the community as your parish hall has done for you. It was very interesting for me to see the foundation being prepared. I learned a lot about all the ingredients and exacting preparation that goes into making a solid foundation….a foundation that will be strong and secure enough to withstand all the various storms that will come its way.

We are often reminded that the Church, the Catholic Church to be specific, needs a solid and secure foundation…and that foundation is JESUS CHRIST. If you flip through the pages of history you see that the Catholic Church has endured many serious storms. I believe this to be true only because of its foundation…JESUS CHRIST.

The Catholic Church today is going through some serious storms. I honestly feel one of the most serious is the sexual misconduct of priests and all the hurt, pain and mistrust that goes along with that unhealthy behavior. As a Catholic priest for 46 years I would like to share with you some personal reflections about this “storm”.

I think some are quick to say that we shouldn’t be talking about this topic in church…I believe we should. It is going on in our Church family and as disgusting and repulsive as it may be, it needs to be faced and named. Along with that, we need to constructively and honestly deal with it… so real healing can take place and trust can be slowly restored.

As a human being, as a lifelong Catholic, and as a priest, I am very embarrassed, discouraged, hurt and angered by what I see on TV and Internet, read in newspapers and magazines, and hear people talking about it wherever I go…. about how some priests have sexually used and abused people of various ages….how some church leadership has covered things up, moved priest from place to place and pretended that nothing was wrong. As hard as it is to hear these things…they are true….and we must deal with them.

As a human being, as a lifelong Catholic, and as a priest who is committed to helping the Church grow, heal and deal more openly with its problems and weaknesses and not just point a critical and negative finger of judgment at “those people”
-I apologize for the devastating damage that some priests have inflicted on innocent people…on any of you.
-I apologize to any of the victims and their families and I promise that I will keep them in my daily prayers
-I apologize to the parishioners who sit in the pews, Sunday after Sunday and repeatedly have to hear the statement, “What is wrong with your Church?”
I want to assure you that my apologies are not made simply to be politically correct, rather they are sincere.

I assure you, that in our Diocese under Bishops Ryan, Garcia and Wilkerson’s leadership, there is an open, honest, fair process that has been established to face such issues and not cover them up. I offer an open invitation from myself and from our Bishop, to you and anyone else, to help heal any damage….whatever it takes.

So consequently, how do you or I keep this storm in perspective, not be overwhelmed by it and not mistrust every priest brother and sister we meet? For me, I recall all the priests, sisters, and brothers who have impacted my life in a positive way with love, sensitivity, care and concern over the years. I try to keep in mind that it is a small percentage of all priests who have done these awful deeds. I am saddened when I hear priests say things like, “I’ll never be seen around kids” or “you’ll never find me over at the school or at the CCD classes.”

Because, I love these young people and realize what a great gift they are to our Church, I will not let the sins of a few or the somewhat understandable mistrusting looks of others, keep me from ministering to young people and kids in the Church as I have done for the past 46 years.

I pray that our Church will learn some great lessons from this storm and that some things that need to change will change. During this time we need to constantly ask ourselves: What can we learn from this? How can we grow from this to fully become the Church of Jesus Christ?

We need to remind ourselves often, that we cannot make the foundation of our faith or the foundation of the church, a particular priest, sister or brother. It is unfair and unrealistic for everyone concerned. Signs of earned respect and affirmation are necessary but putting anyone on a pedestal is a very unhealthy posture.

In closing, I pray that we have the heart of Jesus Christ…a heart that is filled with compassion for those that are hurt and abused… a heart of forgiveness for those who inflict abuse, even if they are not on my list of those who deserve forgiveness… a heart that is not quick to judge and condemn those accused… a heart that is committed to building the church that is always in need of healing and growth…and a heart that is not afraid to ask and answer the HARD questions.

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