OPEN MENUCLOSE MENU

Church Response to Abuse Reports

Resources - Read and Pray!

Statement of the Archdiocese of Chicago on the List of Accused Priests Released by Anderson & Associates

March 21, 2019

Anderson & Associates released the names of clerics and laypeople they say have been accused of the sexual abuse of minors and have served in one or more of the six Illinois dioceses. The Archdiocese of Chicago reports all allegations we receive to the civil authorities. In addition to the priests listed on the archdiocese’s website, we have identified 22 priests of the Archdiocese of Chicago on Anderson & Associates’ list.

The archdiocese has reported 20 of these clerics to the civil authorities; in one of the remaining two cases, the archdiocese first received notice when the cleric was arrested, and in the other it was an allegation of misconduct with an adult, not a minor. The attached chart details the circumstances surrounding these 22 allegations and disposition of those cases.

Priests with substantiated allegations are listed on the archdiocese’s website.

The Archdiocese of Chicago reports all allegations to the civil authorities, regardless of the date of the alleged abuse, whether the priest is a diocesan priest or religious order priest, and whether the priest is alive or dead.

When an allegation against an archdiocesan cleric is made and before any investigation begins, the archdiocesan Office of Assistance Ministry promptly reaches out to the person making the allegation and offers therapy at archdiocesan expense from a licensed therapist of the person’s choosing. The archdiocese withdraws the accused priest from ministry pending investigation of the allegation and publicly announces this action.

After the civil authorities have completed their investigation, the archdiocese conducts its investigation.

The Independent Review Board, which considers the results of such investigations, was established in 1993. The majority of its members are laypeople. The Independent Review Board is the primary adviser to the archbishop on issues of risk to children and fitness for ministry.

Anderson & Associates conflates people who have been accused, but may be innocent, with those who have substantiated allegations against them, referring to all as perpetrators. Their list includes:

  • a priest whose allegations were investigated by the public authorities and were determined to be unfounded. The Archdiocese’s Independent Review Board also investigated and determined that the allegations were not substantiated. The priest was then returned to ministry.
  • two priests whose cases are under investigation; their cases were reported to the authorities and they have been withdrawn from ministry, pending the outcome of the investigation.
  • a seminarian (who was a transitional deacon) who was never ordained a priest.
  • a priest who was accused of misconduct with an adult, not a minor.

Many of the names listed by Anderson & Associates are religious order priests. We provide the following information to help clarify their governance:

Dioceses and religious orders are separately governed entities in the Roman Catholic Church. Bishops govern dioceses; religious superiors govern religious orders. The bishop selects, trains, and supervises diocesan priests. The religious orders select, train, and supervise their priests. The diocesan and religious order priests often do similar work, but each group is responsible to its own chain of authority (Canon 586). Disagreements between a bishop and a religious superior are referred to the Holy See for resolution.

A bishop and a religious superior work cooperatively such as when a bishop grants faculties (a license) for a religious priest to work in a diocesan institution, such as a parish (Canon 678). Nevertheless, the religious order priest is still under the authority of his religious superior. Similarly, a bishop may revoke a religious order priest’s faculties (a license) to work in the diocese. In that eventuality, the supervision and management of the order priests also remains the responsibility of his religious superior. In brief, a diocesan priest is the responsibility of the diocese and a religious priest is the responsibility of the religious order.

If the Archdiocese of Chicago receives an allegation that a religious priest has engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor, the archdiocese reports it to the civil authorities, publicly withdraws the priest’s faculties to work in the archdiocese, and refers the matter to his religious superior.

Religious superiors have the same obligation and responsibility as bishops to adhere to the terms set forth in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

For more information about the archdiocese’s response to clergy sexual abuse, please visit: https://heal.archchicago.org/.

Archdiocese of Chicago
835 North Rush Street, Chicago, IL 60611
312-534-7959
archchicago.org


Cardinal Cupich’s Rome Meeting Reflection

March 5, 2019

Dear Friends,

Thank you for keeping me in your prayers during the recent Meeting on the Protection of Minors in the Church, convened by the Holy Father in Rome. Your support gave me great hope and encouragement, and I would like to provide you with an update on what was accomplished and our next critical steps.

This meeting set the direction of the entire global Church on the question of child safety. Our firm resolve and the actions we will take are a direct result of hearing the testimony of victims/survivors throughout the meeting. Their unflinching witness moved the hearts of the participants and the world and led us to recommit to a common mission of making the Church a safe place for all, achieved by taking personal responsibility, holding bishops accountable, and practicing transparency.

The nine talks over three days were given by presenters approved by the Holy Father. Each of the speakers pointed out the failures of bishops to act responsibly and described the damage done by their lack of accountability and transparency. Pope Francis built on what was said in the various talks by making it clear at the end of the Mass on Sunday that the Church’s agenda in protecting children must be proactive not reactive or defensive. He insisted that the Church will spare no effort to hold abusers accountable and will not tolerate cover-ups.

The all-out effort for which the pope has called will continue to build over time and will be marked by a commitment to ongoing learning and improving, particularly by listening to victims/survivors of abuse.

Four concrete steps were announced at the end of the meeting.

  1. The imminent publication of a motu proprio by the pope, providing rules and regulations to safeguard minors and vulnerable adults within the Vatican City State;
  2. The distribution of a “vademecum” (or rulebook) to bishops around the world, standardizing guidelines so church leaders everywhere take on this task in a united way and explaining their juridical and pastoral duties and responsibilities regarding protecting children;
  3. Recognizing that the global Church is marked by great culture diversity and unique regional challenges, task forces of competent experts that are culturally sensitive and regionally representative will be organized to assist bishops’ conferences that may lack the necessary resources or expertise to fully address the issue of safeguarding minors and dealing with abuse;
  4. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is responsible for approving the norms of each bishops’ conference.

With this letter, I invite you to view the major talks, prayer services with testimonies of victims/survivors, the penitential ceremony and Mass, all of which were streamed live so the entire world could follow this event. The videos and talks are posted on the Vatican’s dedicated website at pbc2019.org.

You can be sure of a place in my prayers, and I ask that you keep victims/survivors, our Church, and our community in yours.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago


Audio Message from Cardinal Cupich at Masses

February 2019

My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

You may know that Pope Francis has called a meeting in Rome, of the presidents of bishops’ conferences and other leaders in the Church from around the world to address the crisis of clerical sex abuse of minors. As I work with others to organize this meeting, I want to tell you that your concerns are close to my heart. I truly appreciate the input I have heard and received from you. I will carry your concerns and insights with me as I go to Rome.

At the same time, I know how hard these past few months have been for you. I understand the anger and disappointment many feel as the Church suffers from the scandal of clergy sexual abuse, and the mishandling by some church leaders.

Victim-survivors have been courageous in telling their stories. Listening to them, taking measures to protect children and holding everyone accountable is the only response to make.

We are and have been doing all of this in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and will continue to provide support for victims, to report every allegation of clerical sexual abuse to civil authorities, and to permanently remove anyone from ministry who is credibly accused.

I invite you to learn more about what the Archdiocese does to protect children, heal victims and make sure all priests and church leaders are held accountable, by visiting our website heal.archchicago.org. I’ve also asked pastors to print the website address in your bulletins.

Pope Francis understands that abuse in the Church is a global problem that needs a global solution. The Holy Father’s aim in calling the meeting at the end of this month is to make sure that every bishop in the world takes personal responsibility and is held accountable for how he handles these matters. But, the pope also intends to make clear to all bishops the concrete steps for complying with this agenda. Getting this right is the priority.

I also want to tell you how sorry I am, for the harm done to victims, but also the harm done to you, the faithful who also have been deeply wounded by all of this. You continue to be in my prayers and I ask for yours, not just for me and the success of the February meeting, but especially for our priests and all who work for the church faithfully during these very challenging times. They need our support now more than ever.

God Bless you all.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago

Mensaje en Audio del Cardenal Cupich en las Misas

Febrero 2019

Mis hermanas y hermanos en Cristo,

Probablemente saben que el papa Francisco ha llamado a una reunión en Roma de los presidentes de las conferencias de obispos y otros líderes en la Iglesia de alrededor del mundo para abordar la crisis de abuso sexual de menores del clero. Mientras trabajo con otras personas para organizar esta reunión, quiero decirles que sus preocupaciones están cerca de mi corazón. Realmente aprecio los aportes que he escuchado y recibido de ustedes. Llevaré sus preocupaciones y aportaciones conmigo cuando vaya a Roma.

Al mismo tiempo, sé lo difícil que han sido estos últimos meses para ustedes. Comprendo la rabia y decepción que muchos sienten mientras la Iglesia sufre del escándalo de abuso sexual del clero, y el mal manejo de algunos de los líderes de la iglesia.

Las víctimas-sobrevivientes han sido valientes al decir sus historias. Escucharlos, tomar medidas para proteger a los niños y responsabilizar a todos es la única respuesta para dar.

Estamos y hemos estado haciendo todo esto en la Arquidiócesis de Chicago, y continuaremos proporcionando apoyo a las víctimas, reportando cada alegación de abuso sexual del clero a las autoridades civiles y removiendo permanentemente del ministerio a quien sea acusado de manera creíble.

Los invito a conocer más acerca de lo que la Arquidiócesis hace para proteger a los niños, sanar a las víctimas y garantizar que todos los sacerdotes y líderes de la iglesia sean responsables, visitando nuestro sitio web heal.archchicago.org. También he pedido a los pastores que impriman la dirección del sitio web en sus boletines.

El papa Francisco comprende que el abuso en la Iglesia es un problema global que necesita una solución global. El objetivo del Santo Padre al llamar a la reunión a fines de este mes es garantizar que cada obispo en el mundo asuma la responsabilidad personal y sea responsabilizado por la manera como maneja estos asuntos. Pero el papa también tiene la intención de dejar claro a todos los obispos los pasos concretos para cumplir con esta agenda. Hacer esto bien es la prioridad.

También quiero decirles cuanto siento el daño hecho a las víctimas, así como también por el daño a ustedes los fieles que también han sido heridos profundamente por todo esto. Continúan estando en mis oraciones y pido las suyas, no solo para mí y para el éxito de la reunión de febrero, sino especialmente para nuestros sacerdotes y todos los que trabajan por la iglesia fielmente durante estos momentos desafiantes. Ellos necesitan nuestro apoyo ahora más que nunca.

Dios los bendiga a todos.
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Arzobispo de Chicago


Statement of the Archdiocese of Chicago on the Attorney General of Illinois Report on Clergy Sexual Abuse

December 20, 2018

Dear Friends,

Yesterday, the Attorney General of Illinois released a preliminary report on her investigation of the Illinois Catholic dioceses’ response to the child sexual abuse crisis.

We issued a response, which you can READ HERE, but it is important that I reach out to you, our coworkers in our mission, to offer reassurance that your archdiocese takes its responsibilities to victims of clergy abuse seriously and works diligently to protect children from harm.

As many of you know, the Archdiocese of Chicago has been at the forefront of dealing with the issue of clergy sexual abuse for nearly three decades. In 1991, Cardinal Bernardin called for a dramatic change in our culture and developed a set of policies and practices that keep children safe, hold offenders accountable and ensure we act with transparency. These policies, adopted in 1992, were the model for the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the United States bishops’ conference a decade later.

You may be confident that everyone who has come to the Archdioceses of Chicago with an allegation has been treated with respect and offered pastoral care. We have reported all allegations of child sexual abuse to civil authorities and investigate every allegation against an archdiocesan priest, regardless of whether the accused is alive or dead. We have published the names of diocesan priests with substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse since 2006, a time when few dioceses made this information public.

For more information on the actions the Archdiocese of Chicago has taken to address this issue, resources for victim-survivors, instructions for reporting a sexual abuse allegation, frequently asked questions about our independent review of our policies, procedures and practices, and public statements made by me and other Church leaders, please visit our Healing and Reconciliation website.

Once again, we mourn the grave damage done to the many people harmed by clergy sexual abuse and stand ready to cooperate with all institutions and agencies that care for children. It can never be stated often enough: No matter where a child is educated or cared for, they are all our children and deserve to be protected.

During this holy season, as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child in our own hearts, let us continue to pray for all those harmed by abuse. Let us reflect the light of Christ for them and be messengers of His Good News to all we encounter.

Please pray for me; I will continue to pray for you and your families as I remain sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago


SCANDALS IN THE CHURCH PRESENTATION

The “Knowledge and Prayer” Series of the Respect Life Ministry of our community presented “Scandals: Honesty & Hope” on November 26, 2018 at St. Bernard Catholic Church. Thank YOU to everyone who came to this “Knowledge and Prayer” Series talk. A special “THANK YOU” to Father Thomas Loya (Presenter), Father Joseph McCormick and Father John Merkelis (Panel of Discussion) for their time and attention and for serving Jesus Christ daily in all you do.

We can watch the LIVE videos in our St. Michael Facebook linked below or read the handouts posted below.

Blessed Mother Pray for us!

CLICK HERE to see VIDEO ONE in our St. Michael Facebook

CLICK HERE to see VIDEO TWO in our St. Michael Facebook



ALL ARE WELCOME – We’re Here to Inspire Hope!

Do you know a child who has experienced physical or sexual abuse or neglect?
Are you an adult who as a child experienced physical or sexual abuse or neglect?
As a result, are you struggling to find ways to cope?
We can help!

The ICJIA Inspiring Hope Program through Catholic Charities offers FREE counseling services and case management services to children and adults.

The Inspiring Hope Program is centrally located at the Tolton Peace Center with availability to meet throughout Chicago and Cook County.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
Call (773) 922-7219
English and en Español

Inspiring Hope Program
Tolton Peace Center
5645 W. Lake St.
Chicago, IL 60644


Bishop Robert Barron – Why Remain Catholic? (With So Much Scandal)


Talking To Young People About the Scandals in the Catholic Church

Roy Petitfils, LPC offers tips for parents, teachers and ministers on how to discuss the recent scandals in the Catholic Church with young people.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE – https://youtu.be/ZPd7l2S0n3U


Bishop Robert Barron – Q&A about the Sexual Abuse Crisis


Letter from Cardinal Blase J. Cupich to the People of the Archdiocese of Chicago

Response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

August 17, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Anger, shock, grief, shame. What other words can we summon to describe the experience of learning about the devastating revelations of sexual abuse — and the failures of bishops to safeguard the children entrusted to their care — published in the Pennsylvania grand jury report, released Tuesday? This catalogue of horrors comes on the heels of news accounts of deeply disturbing sexual-abuse and harassment allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who recently resigned from the College of Cardinals. And yet whatever words we may use to describe the anguish of reading about these heinous acts, they can never capture the reality of suffering endured by victims of sexual abuse, suffering compounded by the woeful responses of bishops who failed to protect the people they were ordained to serve. As the Holy See put it in its August 16 statement on the grand jury report: “The church must learn hard lessons from its past, and there should be accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”

I know that many of you are asking: How could this be happening again? Didn’t the U.S. bishops address this crisis sixteen years ago when they met in Dallas? What are they doing now, and why should we trust that this time they will do the right thing?

These are precisely the questions that ought to be asked. As a former chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, I have asked them myself. And sorrow, disgust, outrage — these are righteous feelings, the stirrings of the conscience of a people scandalized by the terrible reality that too many of the men who promised to protect their children, and strengthen their faith, have been responsible for wounding both.

We know this not only because of the admirable work of the many members of the news media who played an essential role in bringing this crisis into the light. Now, we have been made to face these scandals first and foremost by the courage of victim-survivors — the men and woman who found the strength, even when doing so meant suffering again unimaginable pain, to come forward and seek justice from an institution that grievously failed them.

What are we bishops doing now to ensure that those failures are not repeated? Today, USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo announced on behalf of all the bishops that our conference will launch a thorough investigation of the allegations against Archbishop McCarrick; that it will establish new ways in which people can report complaints against bishops; and that it will advocate for more effective resolution of such allegations. The USCCB will invite the Holy See to investigate the McCarrick case, in concert with a predominantly lay group of experts.

The bishops will also update our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” by which the bishops pledged to follow a procedure for reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a bishop.

This document needs revision to clarify how victims can report abuse of minors or other misconduct by bishops, as well as develop third-party reporting systems, many of which are already being looked at today. Of course, bishops are not exempt from following standards of behavior. Our own Cardinal Joseph Bernardin provided a strong example, when he chose to step aside after he was accused of abuse — a charge that was eventually retracted.

The USCCB will also press for procedures that will make is easier to resolve complaints against bishops in a timely, fair, and transparent manner.

As Cardinal DiNardo explained, all this will be conducted with “proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.” This call for lay oversight of the investigation, as much as the scandal itself, shows the need for systemic change in the way we order church life. The clericalist mindset, responsible for so much of the scandal, must be purged from church life. As Pope Francis has urged, we need to remember that it is our baptism that unites us. We as a church must reflect more deeply on what we share in common, rather than what distinguishes us.

The abuses contained in the Pennsylvania grand jury report are, as you know, appallingly familiar. And while it is true that the vast majority of abuses contained in that report occurred decades ago, that is of no comfort to victims, nor should it be to any of us. We cannot say this enough: the abuses should never have happened, and no one should have acted in ways that enabled them. This is why, following the 2002 wave of scandals, the USCCB adopted policies designed to protect young people from abusers. We instituted a zero-tolerance policy which holds that even one instance of child sexual abuse would bar someone from the priesthood forever. The Archdiocese of Chicago has implemented these policies and even done more.

  1. We established an independent lay-majority review board to consider allegations against clergy and make recommendations to the bishops.
  2. We refer all allegations of abuse to civil authorities.
  3. We require diocesan employees and volunteers to undergo background checks.
  4. We mandate that all diocesan employees and volunteers undergo safe-environment training to help them identify predatory behavior and understand avenues of reporting. And we required that children be taught how to recognize, resist and report abuse.
  5. We undergo an annual audit to measure compliance with these policies, which every year has found the Archdiocese of Chicago compliant.

Since 2002, hundreds of thousands of our people in dioceses across the United States have undergone safe-environment training. In many ways we can say that the policies of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which established procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, have been successful. According to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, for example, just two of the 300 priests named in the text were accused within the past decade, and both were reported to civil authorities. This excuses nothing, and we can never become complacent about our responsibility to protect children and adults from abuse and harassment, but it does say something about the effects of our post-2002 policies.

Here in the Archdiocese of Chicago, we have been following procedures that were first established by Cardinal Bernardin in 1992, following revelations of clergy abuse that came to light during that period. In addition to what the Charter calls for, we offer payment for counseling or other assistance to anyone who comes to us with allegations even before attempting to establish the credibility of the claim. After any civil investigation has concluded, we conduct our own inquiry into allegations against priests, and our majority-lay review board considers the case and makes a recommendation to me about whether the accused should remain in ministry. One of the most important things Cardinal Bernardin did was to establish a regular meeting of everyone who might be called in to consider a case of sexual abuse, whether it involves a minor or an adult. So, to this day, representatives from across the relevant pastoral center offices regularly meet with me to advise me on cases that arise and ways to strengthen our commitments.

Of course, no set of procedures is perfect. As the grand jury report illustrates, they are subject to the strengths and weaknesses of those entrusted to carry them out. Closed systems always tend toward self-protection; it is only when we create systems of accountability that we let in purifying light. That’s what our practices are designed to do. They exist because we as a church have a grave responsibility to ensure the safety of our people. That is why I encourage anyone who has been victimized to contact our Office of Protection of Children and Youth at 800.994.6200 or protect.archchicago.org.

Anger, shock, grief, shame. There is one other word that we bishops must summon: resolve. We must resolve to face our failures and hold each other accountable. We must resolve to be clear-eyed about what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what remains to be done. We must resolve to live in the light of humility, of repentance, of honesty — the light of Christ. As your bishop, I pledge to continue holding firm to that resolve. And I ask for you to pray for all victims of abuse. I also invite you to review what I have written here and make suggestions for improving our safe-environment standards, ever heeding the Second Vatican Council’s “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,” which called on the laity, “by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy … to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the church.”

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Cardinal Blase J. Cupich
Archbishop of Chicago

For the Spanish version of the letter, please CLICK HERE.

For the Polish version of the letter, please CLICK HERE.


Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the People of God

August 20, 2018

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.

1. If one member suffers…

In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers: “he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we recite.

With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives. We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).

2. … all suffer together with it

The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts, tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an outstretched

hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14) (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).

I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and future.

Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does. For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting, following the Lord’s command.1 This can awaken our conscience and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never again” to every form of abuse.

It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed, whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives. 2 This is clearly seen in a peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.3 Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic “no” to all forms of clericalism.

It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change. The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel,

new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).

It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others. An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and committed along a journey of renewed conversion.

Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth, supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.

In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1).

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church (SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the model of a true follower of Christ.

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.

Vatican City, 20 August 2018

FRANCIS


Bulletin Article of Fr. Frank A. Kurucz

August 26, 2018

For the past five weeks our Sunday gospel was taken from John, Chapter 6.  These passages are collectively known as The Bread of Life Discourse in which Jesus tells us that he is the Bread of Life and if we eat of this bread and drink of this wine we will live forever.  The fact that the Church offers us this reading for five weeks should alert us that this is important and we should pay careful attention.

Over the past five weeks I have focused my homilies on the Eucharist and on the Sunday Mass.  It is important to gather as a community, to be formed by Word and Sacrament, all of this leading us to celebrate the Risen Christ present among us.

Jesus’ teaching on him being the Bread of Life was difficult for people to accept.  Many were shocked, some were disappointed and some even began to question Jesus’ sanity.  Sadly, because of Jesus’ teachings many people who were following him left him and returned to their former way of living.

As in the time of Christ, there are many people today who cannot accept Jesus’ teachings.  Some even ridicule those who do believe.  I remember when I was in college and people use to laugh at me for going to Sunday Mass.  “Do you really believe that stuff,” they would ask.  I had a good Catholic upbringing and so my response was always a confident yes.  Unfortunately, many people did not receive a solid formation in their faith.  So when difficultly comes or ridicule one of the first responses is to deny or run away from their faith.  Some people are very clever and try to upset believers by trying to spread seeds of doubt or the seeds of discontent.  “If God is so good, why is there so much death, sickness, and hatred in the world?”  On the surface they may seem to have a valid argument.  Yet when we think about it their arguments do not make sense.  Death and evil are a consequence of human actions of us taking advantage of free will.  If we did not have free will we would be nothing but puppets – God has given us this gift and we have misused it.  Jesus did not promise to take away pain and suffering, but Jesus did promise to walk with us through the darkness so that we would not be alone.

Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also want to leave me?”  It must have been a difficult question for them to hear.  I wonder how I would react if Jesus asked me this during one of my “bad” days.  We all have bad days when we begin to doubt and to question our faith.  The doubting and the questioning are not bad – when these lead to despair then we need to seek out spiritual assistance.  May we have the courage of Peter who said, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  Peter was right – where else can we go – for only Jesus can bring us life.  Let us pray for the courage to be able to trust that Christ is always with us – even in our darkest hours!

Sadness, Shame, Anger, and Disgust

We have once again been hearing and reading news stories about sexual misconduct by an ex-Cardinal in the United States and about a grand jury report issued for six dioceses in Pennsylvania.  I read some of the grand jury’s report and I must admit at times I cried, at other times I was so disgusted that I could not read about it anymore and then this turned to anger and to feelings of betrayal by those called to shepherd the Church.

This weekend I was lifted up by you, the people of St. Michael – as you came to the altar to receive the Bread of Life.  You did not stay away during this dark hour.  By your presence at Mass you have repeated the words of Peter of today’s gospel, “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

Sexual abuse in any form is a sin and a grave evil.  Sadly we see it more and more in all walks of life not only in the Catholic Church but in other churches, in schools, and families and in other institutions.  Those who are responsible for abuse should be brought to justice and more safeguards put into place to help insure that this never happens again.

I am concerned about the victims of clergy sexual abuse.  The victims were abused by someone they were told to trust, someone that they held in high esteem, someone that was supposed to teach them right from wrong.  These victims were betrayed by those who were sent to guide them to Jesus.  These victims need our prayers so that healing may take place.

We must pray for the families of the victims.  They too have experienced tremendous pain and anger as their pleas for help were unanswered.  Each time another story comes to light they as well as the victims re-live their pain, their anger and their disgust.

We must pray for the lay faithful of the Church who are demoralized, who feel betrayal, who do not know who they can trust.  We must pray for those whose faith is fragile and those who have lost their faith because of this and other scandals.  You may be attacked by family and friends as I was in college for my beliefs.  Stay strong, keep your eyes on Jesus and he will lead and guide you.  I mentioned last weekend that YOU are the Church.  The Church is not the buildings, not the institution, not only the clergy, and not only the bishops.  YOU the people are the Church and you have the right to expect good and holy priests to shepherd you.  You deserve good and holy priests that you can trust and turn to in times of need and despair.

Please also pray for the priests.  Many of us are sad, tired and embarrassed by the actions of our brother priests and of the way the situations were handled (or not handled) by the leadership of the church.  I have lived with this cloud over my head for my entire priesthood.  This is difficult for me as I begin my assignment here as your pastor.  School will be starting with almost 600 students and religious education starting with another 400 plus students.  You do not know me well, parents perhaps will be suspicious, others will tell their children to stay away and others will wonder why priests do not visit the classrooms like they used too.  At yet this sadness is nothing compared to those who have been victimized and hurt by Church leadership.

Let us call upon the Holy Spirit to descend upon us again to lead us and to guide us.  Let us ask God to purify the Church and to eradicate from the earth all sexual abuse.  Let us keep our eyes on the Cross of Christ and as we all endure this time of suffering, pain and death that we too may rise like Christ and the Church rise again to be the Bride of Christ following in his footsteps.

In Christ’s love,
Fr. Frank A. Kurucz Pastor of St. Michael Parish

Ongoing and Upcoming Events