A Pastor Shares His Heartfelt Feelings on the Recent Scandals
These are some thoughts I shared with all the people this past weekend. I spoke at each mass. This text is not polished it was written to be delivered. This is certainly not an intellectual and scholarly approach on the subject but it is what my heart is telling me. I believe Catholics are very angry, that they are hearing little or nothing from church authorities. At the end of this homily, though it certainly does not call for it --- they stood and applauded. "Sensus fidelium"?
Hopefully we will soon get some better guidance from the national bishops when they meet. Thanks for your prayers and support in these difficult days for our people and priests. Above all, may we first remember the young people that are affected by these crimes of adults.
Did You Ever Feel sucked in, washed up, and blown over?
The recent events in the catholic church in America make me feel blown over or blown away!
I need to publicly, as pastor, address this topic. I wish the American Bishops, and Catholic leadership would address the scandal in the Church that has been in the news daily. I don't know if you've seen the New York Times, but they've really been deluging the news with it. Our own Bishop addressed the topic during Holy Week but I'm not sure how many of you read the paper or saw the TV that night.
This is a very painful topic so I'm only going to speak about it once from the pulpit. I have NOT swept it away. The past several weeks have not lent themselves to such a talk: the State of the Union, Palm Sunday, Easter, and Retreat Sunday all took precedence.
April is "Child Abuse Awareness Month" and this is a fitting time to speak with you. I apologize that you have been embarrassed by both the leadership of our church and by some of our priests.
SINS of our priests? NO! It is more the horrendous crimes and sickness of some of our clergy. Unfortunately, there is sickness in our world and it covers every walk of life, even clergy. We expect more of our clergy. But they too get sick.
This is a very heavy and complicated problem. Here are some personal thoughts that are my own.
1. A Married clergy will not do away with this problem. Though personally I am for it.
2. The seminary system did not cause it.
3. If we follow the advice of experts, almost 90 percent of men who molest children were themselves molested at a young age, prior to age 14.
4. Therefore these men were prone to this sickness before they entered the seminary.
5. There was no "screening process" prior to seminary, until the 1980's. Men who were sick and had these inclinations were drawn into this old fashioned system. The system provided a perfect place for someone who is dysfunctional to hide.
6. The seminary system, as it was set up, supported childishness, so that at age 25 you were still being treated as if you were 14.
You were told to stop thinking, we will think for you. Your life was totally controlled:
no mail privacy, no use of phone, no newspapers, no radio, no TV.
You lived in a totally controlled world. You were told what time to get up --- 5 a.m, and what time to go to bed --- 9:15 p.m.
Your meals were cooked and served and your laundry was cleaned and folded for you. All you had to do, was do what you were told.
We were taught, "If you keep the rule, the rule will keep you." You never questioned anything.
7. It was easy for someone who was dysfunctional to get lost in this type of system. This sickness, dormant for years, later manifested itself when the man was set free from the seminary system.
8. Prior to 1980, the best doctors in the country told the Bishops that child molesting was curable. And so they sought cures and thought they worked. These Bishops were sincere. Priests were sent to the best clinics: New Mexico, St Luke's, Maryland.
But in the 1980's it was agreed that there was no cure for this sickness.
This was a big change. American psychiatrists realized that this illness was not reversible. You could not cure a child molester.
Since the early 80's Bishops knew not to transfer these priests but to move them out of any kind of active ministry.
Unfortunately some bishops did not listen and ignored the best advice and continued to use these priests, all the while covering up their sicknesses. Poor judgment or even ignorance is one thing; a criminal cover-up is something else. Do we need to be reminded that the abuse of a child, any child, is a crime.
It appears a few Bishops tried to protect the institutional church rather than our children.
TO ME THIS IS THE CRUX OF THE MATTER:
This is a betrayal of trust, with people trying to understand how men of God, Bishops and Cardinals who are supposed to be helping them with their faith, could be involved in a cover up.
To me personally, it is fundamentally shattering to hear all this within the church that I love.
HOLY THURSDAY is a special day for priests as it commemorates the institution of the priesthood. It has been a custom to celebrate with other priests, usually by having dinner together. This year, although I had several invitations, I wanted to be alone. I went home after the Mass and cooked a hamburger on the grill.
Bishop John J. Nevins started the Venice Diocese in 1984. He has been very forthright on this issue and it appears that he is way ahead of his brother bishops. He is the first Bishop in the USA to be personally fingerprinted and demanded every staff and priest do the same. Even part time religious Ed teacher or anyone who in anyway works with children.
In 1986 he was the first Bishop to establish a "sexual abuse policy". He has dealt openly with the subject even when two accusations caused the Diocese embarrassment. Both Diocesan men were immediately suspended from their duties and NEVER returned to ministry again.
The details were not covered up. The families received counseling. There was no hush money.
Both settlements were published and no diocesan funds were used or will ever be used.
In the two cases private individuals paid the costs of the settlements.
You can read the facts of this as recently as Wednesday of Holy Week in the HERALD TRIBUNE.
Each year the Diocese gives a 4-page accounting of the finances of the Diocese that is published in every copy of the FLORIDA CATHOLIC. This is available to all.
This policy is not something new, this has been Bishop Nevins' open policy since 1984.
I feel horrified and embarrassed by all this. I am very proud to be the pastor of STM, but I am not as proud to be a Catholic Priest in the United States. I do not have the same pride in being a priest as I did just a year ago.
But before we think of our embarrassment as Catholics and priests; before we think of the money lost; before we think of the bankrupt dioceses; before we think of Bishops and Cardinals who may have covered things up and should resign. Before all this: first and foremost we need to think of the innocent children.
We can never take away the pain experienced at the time by those children, nor the shadow left over their entire adult lives.
I Personally have dealt with victims. And I am still dealing with some. One a married man of 40, with 3 children who still has pain and tears over what happened to him as a teenager by an adult.
These children and adults need our help, our support and our prayers.
On a lighter side: CHIPPIE DOESN'T SING MUCH ANYMORE.
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage.
The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over. Well what happened to chippie?
Chippie's owner decided to clean Chippie's cage with a vacuum cleaner.
She stuck the neck of the hose in the cage. The phone rang. She turned to pick it up. She'd barely said hello when "SSSOPP!" Chippie got sucked in.
Chippie's owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust, she grabbed him, raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she reached for her hair dryer and blasted the little bird with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him!
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who had initially written about the event contacted Chippie's owner to see how the bird was recovering.
"Well," she replied, "Chippie doesn't sing much anymore - he just sits and stares."
It's not hard to see why! Sucked in, washed up, and blown over ---- that's enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
Many good Catholics right now feel like poor Chippie --- in this awful scandal the church has left us disillusioned, disappointed, and distrustful. Our trust in our church and its leaders has been replaced by skepticism, doubt and scorn. And it appears that some of our highest leaders, cardinals are still sounding very arrogant.
We understood Thomas' reaction last Sunday to the disciples' outrageous news about the Resurrection; he was full of doubts. But the empty tomb calls us to move beyond our fears, sorrows, anger and doubts in order to awaken the possibilities for resurrection along our journey to the Easter promise, as well as at the completion of that journey.
Today the disciples on the way to Emmaus lose focus and miss seeing Jesus in their midst. They then refocus and rediscover Jesus. Perhaps as we end our parish retreat this week we need to refocus. We need to rediscover that Christ is here. Our faith is not in the priests, the bishops or the Cardinals.
I remember my own father telling me, back in the 1960's when I would come home and complain about a nun or priest who taught me in school, "Donnie, our faith is in Jesus Christ."
Jesus is in our midst even in this awful church turmoil. And as Father Vince Youngber said on Friday, "some how, in some way, some good has to come from this terrible period of time in our Church's history."