People have seen the news this week
about the grand jury report from Pennsylvania,
and we know about terrible, unspeakable crimes
committed by many priests, and in most, nearly all cases,
the bishops were negligent; they shifted the criminal priests around
and they covered it up and they failed the victims, all children.
This comes on the heels of the revelations about Cardinal McCarrick and his crimes –
which were known by many – as he climbed to power.
I hate talking about this, but how can I remain silent?
And yet I feel so inadequate in anything I say.
I will start by apologizing, on behalf of those who ought to apologize.
On the behalf of the Church, I apologize and beg forgiveness.
Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference,
called this a “moral catastrophe,” and that is true.
And he said – and I quote:
“I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness
for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do.
Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick
or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else),
we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership.”
Here is part of what our Archbishop Schnurr said:
From the depths of my heart,
I am sorry for the terrible pain and suffering experienced by the victims of abuse
throughout their lives.
I am sorry for the deep shame that Catholic lay people rightfully feel
at the inexcusable behavior of certain cardinals, bishops and priests,
the emotional exhaustion of having to defend their faith
to friends and co-workers, and the discouragement
of having to relive a deep tragedy that we all hoped was behind us.
I am sorry for the stigma that good and holy priests
who are committed to their vocation and vows have to endure wherever they go.
I am sorry for the trust that has collectively been violated.
Now: those are heartening words, however –
with no disrespect to Archbishop Schnurr,
who I believe is a good man – they are only words.
You and I – all Catholics, everyone – has the right to demand more.
Indeed, we must demand more. I think the bishops are realizing this.
Nevertheless, I believe it is absolutely necessary
for the laypeople to act. I mean you.
Now, this is all pretty raw, and if I were smarter,
maybe I could give better answers than what follows,
but here’s what I suggest.
First, let’s be honest about anger. You are angry, I am angry,
and we are right to be angry. Anger is not always sinful;
there is such a thing as righteous anger and this calls for it.
That said, if you and I are not extremely careful,
anger will soon stop being righteous and become destructive.
And that is the key: Our anger must lead us to justice and healing.
Second, remember those who suffered. Children.
Children who are now adults. Many lost their faith.
Many whose lives were wrecked, and many who died untimely deaths.
Nearly all that we learned this week happened 40 to 60 years ago,
but it is only coming out now.
The wound is ripped open again, but for those who were violated,
I can’t even imagine what they have suffered.
Probably we know people who were harmed; perhaps some here.
There are no words, but if I can do something, I will. Please tell me.
This is why I am speaking out, so that as a family we help each other.
Third, you and I must demand full accounting. The truth must be told.
Even the bishops are recognizing that their credibility is pretty poor;
perhaps mine is too, because I am a priest.
My brother asked me this week: did I know about abuser priests,
and did I fail to say anything?
I will tell you what I told him. No!
By law I and all priests – and all church employees and volunteers –
are required to report whenever we hear about abuse of children.
Over the years, I have had such information come to me,
and I have always reported it to law enforcement.
None of those instances involved a priest, but I would have reported it,
and I will report it, if ever learn such a thing.
And if you know anything, you need to say something too.
One of the questions people have
is about who gets admitted to the seminary.
Things have changed greatly,
and I believe our seminary is an upright place.
Still, if you have questions, ask me; ask our seminarians yourself.
Fourth point: I think our bishops must hear from the faithful.
Let me be clear: I am not trying to turn the dogs loose.
I am not trying to put the Archbishop in a bad light.
But you have a right to speak up, and a duty, too,
because I think he needs to know what is in your heart.
I believe he wants to do what is right; and that will help him do it.
If you write him, please do so with charity.
Finally, faced with evil, we must respond with holiness.
When one part of the body is sick,
the rest of the body must take up the slack.
It’s very tempting to say it’s all on someone else,
but the evil of lust and selfishness and callous indifference
is more common than we dare admit.
For example: you’ve heard me talk about filthy material
on the Internet, which is a HUGE problem.
Here’s the connection: those people in those images?
They are victims of abuse as well.
Their stories are equally as horrific.
But I ask you, what does it mean when you or I click on those images?
Aren’t we accessories to their abuse?
If you want to make a difference, take this form of abuse seriously,
and resolve to separate yourself from it.
It’s a powerful addiction; I am not an expert, but I will help.
There is one more thing, which I am taking on myself;
and that is to offer reparation to God for these crimes.
Starting this Friday, and every Friday,
I will be here in church at 6:30 am, making a Holy Hour of reparation.
I will do it on my knees, if they can take it.
I will offer prayers for those who were violated and for us all.
So how does all this connect to the Scriptures?
In the Gospel, Jesus said over and over, “eat my flesh; drink my blood.”
In the Greek, the language is actually more shocking: “chew, gnaw on my flesh.”
People were shocked, and rightly so. Why would he say that?
There are times when Jesus didn’t pussy-foot around;
this is one of them. He was confronting them with a shocking reality:
he was going to suffer a horrible death on the Cross,
and this cruelty was placed at the center of his plan of salvation,
because humanity needs to face the horror of sin and evil.
Not look away; not paper it over. Face it.
Your God came to earth to go to the Cross;
the same cross that we humans nail each other to.
Until we squarely face – chew on and swallow –
the truth of human darkness,
we cannot really know what God is saving us from.
Without facing what hell really is, heaven is just a word.