If you are signed up for FLOCKNOTE or MyParishApp, you would have received, from Archbishop Lori directly, four questions to which you can reply using a “virtual town meeting” by clicking “reply” on those notes. If you are not signed up for this media, parishioners can sign up through www.aobmoreconnected.org.
THE QUESTIONS ARE:
1. In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what are you most worried about? 2. In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what are you hopeful about? 3. In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, What is the main issue we are dealing with now? 4. In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what is your best advice for practical steps to move forward?
We also asked these same four questions at our parish LISTENING SESSION on Sept 18th. We handed out forms w these four questions and had people fill them out and then discuss in small groups, followed by large-group discussion. We collected about thirty forms from which we compiled a report which we sent on to the Archdiocese.
Here is a compilation of what we received: I put these notes in unfiltered, and did not delete any thoughts or sentiments even if I did not share them. Following these notes, however, I will give a couple of paragraphs of thoughts of my own. – Fr. Andy
1. What am I worried about?
a. The credibility of our priests and their lying to us. B. Holy Family Parish. C. the decline of the churches. D. How we as a Church look to our Protestant friends. E. The abused….and about the ability of the Church to stay solvent and to have enough priests. F. Priests, still, in our diocese that have not been discovered. G. That these current exposures are just the beginning of many more problems ahead…this is only the surface. H. I am so confused on how to live out my faith….there needs to be JUSTICE and yet mercy and forgiveness…..this is hard to figure out….I. These who knew about abuse said and did nothing. They are as guilty as the ones who did the abuse. J. I am worried about the damage this scandal is going to inflict on the Church…..I am distressed beyond words at the lack of action by the higher levels….I am also concerned that the Pope is not addressing the issue….the situation has gone beyond silence and prayer. Are seminarians being protected from abuse? K. No change. L. More cover-up. M. That the Church will not take the necessary action that will provide the laity with confidence in the priests that serve. N. I am not worried: I just want the predators gone from the Church. We/the Church can want to support priests who are true representatives of God – the others can go to jail. O. That this is happening again….worried that this latest crisis will pass like water under the bridge. P. That Catholics will start to leave the Church. Q. That many will leave the Church because the want resolution about this issue now. R. The erosion of trust and adherence to the Catholic faith. I am skeptical about the hierarchy addressing this problem. S. That all states will have an inquiry about abuse which will last for years into the future. T. That people become disenchanted w their faith. U. Are there scandals in the Archd of Balt which have not been uncovered? Is the Maryland Attny General going to take an action here?
2. What am I hopeful about?
a. God’s intervention. B. Accountability and punishment for the deception to children, families. C. that we have enough priests to keep the churches going. D. That the Church comes out stronger and more unified. E. That priests will be more dedicated and holy. F. That the Church will come out of this stressful period stronger and holier. G. That the laity won’t become numb to this but that we will be faithful and the people in the pews will work to improve the Church – I believe we can and will. H. I know that God is purging the Church. Things will get better and the Church will be stronger….I am happy the lay people are to be involved in helping to change things. I. That the whole truth will come out and then the Catholic Church will be stronger than before. J. Jesus will get us through the storm. K. Cleansing. L. The guilty go to jail. M. That those responsible be held accountable. That all can see that priests are not beyond reproach AND that those who have acted as predators will be ferreted out. N. That the Church will be purified and this evil will be exorcised. We cannot look the other way and pretend that things are not happening. O. The Holy Spirit is with his Church and Jesus won the battle w sin on the cross. P. That the Pope will take the lead on this. Q. Know that Christ is in control and his plan is in action and that we can trust and believe in him w all our heart. R. I hope we can have a Pope and bishops worldwide who will seriously acknowledge this pain and suffering this abuse has caused and have a more open plan for going forward – possibly w many changes. S. That God will not abandon his Church or the holy priests. T. That we trust in God because he is in charge. U. That the Pope is earnestly desiring to “do the right thing.”
3. What is main issue we are dealing w now?
a. Spiritual corruption. B. Trust – gone, respect – gone, failure to protect children – gone. C. Better ways to screen those who enter into the priesthood. D. Don’t cover up for those who have gone astray. E. Cover-ups: Priests w no conscience and bishops who fail to take action. F. Trust. G. The cover-ups of some powerful bishops in the U.S.: McCarrick was the founding bishop of my old diocese and he rings hollow….he pulled the wool over our eyes. H. Defending my faith to family/friends and others. Purging the Church and moving forward somehow…Screening priests or prospective priests….Not letting this continue to come out in drips, but to get it all out now. I. That all be investigated: There is a lack of action to do the right thing….it is not only a sin but a crime. J. Credibility of Catholic leaders: The laity feel betrayed, trust needs to be reestablished. K. Betrayal. L. How abusers were promoted – even to Cardinal. M. We need a reality that is responsive to the laity and to clean house. N. Predators in the Church need to be arrested and judged. O. Not dealing w abuse in the proper manner (handing these cases over to the authorities/priests not informing on other priests.) P. SO many priests have sinner and we have entrusted our children in their care. Q. Know how to talk to others about what is happening – have clear answers when the time is right (God’s time.) R. No trust in the leadership of humans entrusted to help us. S. In the case of the Cardinal: The fox was in charge of the chicken coop. Cardinals must pay for their crimes instead of a slap on the wrist. T. We are dealing with trust. U. Is Holy Family/the Archd of Balt experiencing decreased giving/attendance? How do we reassure our parishioners in the light of these recent events?
4. What is best advice?
a. Accountability at all levels. b. There is no way to apologize for an abomination. C. criminal charges and punishment for these crimes. D. Pray to God like never before. E. Always keep our eyes/our focus, on the Lord. F. Don’t cover anything up w problems in the priesthood and to PRAY for those entering the priesthood. G. Develop transparency and deal w sin when it arises….yes, need to be forgiving and try to bring healing….H. Get rid of bad weed, transparency. H. Inclusion of reps of the laity to become more involved in hierarchical decisions – even regarding the election of bishops. I. Prayer, honestly: Lay people having oversight in dealing w bishop, priests / openness. Teach us to put trust in God, and not people. Don’t put priest on a pedestal: They are just human like anyone….respect but don’t put them on a pedestal. Stop moving priests if they have committed crimes -- kick them out. They also need to stand trial in the justice system. J. To be transparent, honest and open and to hold nothing back, and that those who did the abuse be tried by court of law. K. Deal with abusers through the law as well as through Church practices (removing abusers from the priesthood.) Keep up communications about what is begin done. L. Lay involvement in oversight and decisions, RESTART AOB PASTORAL COUNCIL. M. Pray/jail/excommunication. N. Accountability for actions/good vetting of candidates for the priesthood. O. Have laity handle the administration of the Church so that the priests have time to do the work of the Lord: Not money matters, hiring and firing. P. Deal w abuse as the crime that it is – report abusers to the police. Stop filtering conservative applicants in the priesthood. Better vetting of candidates for the priesthood, remove bishops who don’t turn in offenders. Q. The Pope needs to take a stand and act on it….the local archbishop who allowed this to happen should step down. The Church needs to “clean house.” R. Be transparent, stay united, pray. S. Honest and open dialogue from the leaders of our Church to our priests and to us….specifically the issues of seminarians. T. Have women deacons and married priests. U. Pray and do not lose hope. V. Report all wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities….don’t allow clergy to ‘seek refuge.”
Some thoughts, also from Fr. Andy:
I think that the news of hearing about the abuse in Pennsylvania and then the revelation of Archbishop McCarrick’s abuse of seminarians in the 1980’s (that was covered up by cash payments in the 2000’s) all hit us hard. I would say the following:
1. Since 2002 all U.S. dioceses were asked to submit all their handling of clergy/lay abuse by their employees to an independent lay-dominated review board EVERY YEAR. This was done by all dioceses, except for Lincoln, Nebraska, since 2002, and by Lincoln since 2010. a. This was PART OF A NUMBER OF DECISIONS IMPLEMENTED IN 2002….all kinds of oversights and tests and training involving all our staff and volunteers. For staff we have criminal background checks, fingerprinting, and clergy need letters of suitability to do work in any other diocese. b. Part of the 2002 decisions was that any credible accusation would be handed over to the civil authorities within 12 hours. This has been done since then and no priests or deacons are now shielded from the law.
2. Having said that, the 2002 reforms DID accomplish a further drastic reduction in clergy and lay employee abuse in the Catholic Church (it had been falling since 1985 anyway, but it plummeted after 2002.) New accusations dating from the 2002-2017 time period are very low….so that in 2017, among 37,000 Catholic priests in the United States, there were two accusations of sexual abuse, while in the same year in Pennsylvania, among 123,000 public school teachers, 42 permanently lost their teaching licenses because of inappropriate sexual contact with minors. a. I ran this by a few people with a preemptive “I don’t mean to sound defensive….” and the people I ran it by didn’t take it as defensive: But that maybe it was helpful, since many people seem to think that the Pennsylvania report was in the news so much because there was an explosion of CURRENT or RECENT cases – when they, in fact, date from the 1940’s to now, while the and the vast majority of the cases happened before 1990.
3. However, at the same time, it is upsetting for people that, pre-2002, or even shortly after that time, abusers who were clergy or Church employees sometimes did not face criminal prosecution for behavior that, we know now, can destroy someone else’s life. So that more than one parishioner talked to me about a priest who had abused, who had simply quietly retired – Like Cardinal Law did in the 2000’s. I would say that many priests or lay employees of the Church have gone to jail – but many have not.
4. And also, what did NOT happen in 2002 was that the bishops did NOT adopt rules or standards for removing bishops who did wrong….so we need to address that now AND we also realize that there is a priestly culture in trouble when a man can become a Cardinal in the Church and even have secret pay-outs to people he abused in 2005 and 2007 in two New Jersey dioceses where he previously served – and yet be able to quietly live out his retirement with his reputation intact and even living with seminarians down in Upper Marlboro (shockingly, when he had abused seminarians before and two dioceses had paid off former seminarians for such behavior!) It is mind-boggling: And that now all that happens to Archbishop McCarrick is that he is stripped of the title of Cardinal – that is strange.
5. Also, at the same time, there was a huge crisis in Chile, where accusers against certain priests and a bishop were silenced for years and when the Pope visited there, in early 2018, he caused a real debacle where he publicly sided with an accused bishop. The result was pandemonium and even the bombing of churches.
a. But, when Pope Francis got the sense that he had been lied to by a Chilean cardinal and bishops, he called them all to Rome for a dressing down. At this point, seven of the 31 bishops in Chile have been removed since May of 2018, and a notorious Chilean abuser priest was just removed from the clerical state – so Pope Francis, if we look at Chile, is willing to take on bishops.
6. In moving forward, what I hear from everyone – the Holy Family parishioners at our listening session and from Archbishop Lori’s communications -- has been to: a. Codify how to discipline or remove bishops who act badly. b. Have a uniform set of disciplines – including zero tolerance for abuse and handing over to civil authorities – all offending Church employees – lay and clerical. c. Have oversight, by lay-dominated and truly independent boards, of the decisions of bishops and dioceses in handling abuse cases. d. A change of culture in the Church where we put victims of abuse first and not a clerical culture or a culture of entitlement (because everyone, including lay people, can feel entitled.) e. A change of culture so that we defend seminarians when they experience sexual advances from those who evaluate them or affect their careers. f. A growth in holiness among men in the clerical state AND IN THE WHOLE CHURCH. Having mentioned a need for a holy priesthood though: Again, I would say that the last thirty years has seen a drastic decline in abuse among clergy – so to look at the actions of the 1950’s to 1980’s without seeing the improvement since then would not give credit where it is due -- That tremendous work has been done, already, to improve our seminaries and to make them safer places for seminarians. In the end though, I would say we need oversight over the bishops and clergy and transparency: And that this hasn’t happened in the past has really hurt people.
As for our own Archdiocese being investigated though, something that was brought up by parishioners in our listening session, our own Archdiocese, Baltimore, WILL be investigated by the State of Maryland very soon: But in our case, I just heard from leadership, we will be better off than the dioceses in Pennsylvania: Because we released all the names of the credibly accused clergy and lay abusers in 2002 in a public meeting and then in our newspaper….so that is done. And we have been notifying the State of Maryland when there is an accusation for years now. Of course that something may have been missed and will be found? That could happen….or that details of some cases will be upsetting: I am sure. But there will be much less to report that isn’t already known in our state.
God bless and please know of my prayers as we all work and pray for the continued renewal of our Church. Please take a moment to log into the Archdiocesan Town Meeting to give them your thoughts.
Sorry this was so long: I just wish this issue wasn’t so complicated.
God bless, Fr. Andy
Holy Family Catholic Church 826 W Central Ave Davidsonville, MD 21035