As we seek to address the crisis in the Catholic Church, the pain and confusion of this moment in her history is palpable. I have received many letters, both of support and challenge. I appreciate the lay faithful expressing their feelings and concerns. The pain and suffering goes far and wide. In the midst of this public scandal, many victims of sexual abuse by clergy will have to relive the abhorrent experiences again. As a church, as the body of Christ, it is important to keep them deeply in our prayers. “When one member of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers,” (1 Cor 12:26). Most importantly our prayers are needed at this time.
Published reports about these criminal allegations and the lack of appropriate response by some bishops over many decades are deeply disturbing. The betrayal by church leaders runs deep in the hearts of victims and faithful Catholics, and rightfully so. These horrific actions bring deep sadness and shame to all of us who love the church so dearly, in particular the faithful bishops and priests who seek to live their priesthood with faithfulness and integrity. My sincere apologies and prayers go out to all victims and their families — anyone who has been affected by this scandal.
Where must we go from here? Throughout her history the church has faced many challenges, many crises. Each time she has had to look inwardly at her own weaknesses and flaws. This is nothing new, painful as it is. It has been painful each time it has occurred in the church’s history. It is very painful today for us who are living through this time in her history. This may be the greatest crisis the American Catholic Church has had to face throughout her history.
As I wrote in my last statement, because further questions have arisen in the released testimony from the former Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, making serious allegations about the Archbishop McCarrick abuse case, I join my voice with Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Executive Committee in calling for the Holy See to conduct a thorough investigation that includes granting authority to a lay commission to examine the many questions that surround the case of Archbishop McCarrick.
As Cardinal DiNardo said on August 27, “The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.” A thorough investigation is necessary, one that is credible and done with the utmost transparency. The “truth” must be found. The only way through this is openness and honesty — that lead to effective reforms. Jesus assures us “the truth will set us free.” We shouldn’t fear anything. Truthfulness and transparency will lead to the path of purification and reform.
Perhaps right now, many Catholics may feel compelled to leave the church because of the scandal. Without denying this reality, I urge those who are considering this response to prayerfully reconsider, lest they fall into the desires of the Evil One. A better response is for each of us to renew our commitment to seek holiness in our lives, trusting that Jesus is intimately with us this moment.
Pope Francis, in Gaudete et Exultate, said that “Holiness is the face of the Church.” This “face” is not so pretty at this moment. We must remember that this “holiness” is meant for everyone. We are all called to seek holiness every day and to live a life of faith — courageously and with integrity, as beacons of light and hope, personally, in our families, in our parishes and in our communities. This then, allows the world to see the true face of the church.
As Catholics, we believe that Christ has not and will not abandon his church. He promised to be with us always — and he is living with us through this crisis. He looks out over his beloved Bride, the church, and weeps with us. But we live in faith and hope that Jesus, as we surrender ourselves to him, keeping our gaze upon this “crucified One,” will lead us to a new place where the Gospel can be preached and lived with faithfulness and love, thus bearing new life in the world.
The sanctity of the church rests in Christ himself. I believe that Jesus is very present; he is fighting this spiritual battle with Satan. Perhaps that is why all of this is coming to light. “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed” (Jn 3:20). Perhaps Jesus has forced these things into the light. Only when things come into the light can he heal them.
The weakness of the church, a human church, can be transformed through Christ — and through prayer and repentance. This is something all of us can do and should do for the sake of our Bride, the church — for her healing. Our fasting and prayer can lead to healing, to purification, and to the necessary reforms.
The church is holy to the extent that her members are holy. The church’s conformity to Christ is complete only to the extent that her members are conformed to Christ. Each of us, as disciples of Jesus, are called to help lead the church through the challenges, through the sinfulness of our culture, to become more fully the church that Jesus Christ established.
In response to this, I invited all priests of the diocese to join me in offering a Mass on September 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, and/or September 15, the
Memorial of our Lady of Sorrows, in each of their parishes in reparation for the sins of priests and bishops. During this Mass all victims — children and adults — who have suffered abuse at the hands of priests and bishops were lifted in prayer.
I have also encouraged my priests, and now all of you, to make Fridays for the next year a day of prayer and sacrifice for reparation for all priests and bishops who have so grievously wounded the body of Christ. Some suggestions might be:
- Pray the Mass on Friday for this intention if you are able.
- Pray a rosary or the Rosary of Our Lady of Sorrows.
- Pray the Litany for the Abuse Crisis each Friday for nine Fridays and then repeat.
- Offer a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration on Friday.
Please consult your parish bulletins to find out what is being done in your parishes.
I also ask Our Lady, Our Mother of Mercy, to pour out her mercy upon our Church and our families, so that all victims may experience the healing love of her Son. We must never forget those who have been harmed by the church. May our prayers and sacrifices bring true healing, conversion and holiness to all.