Over the past few months I know it has been difficult for all of us as new revelations of child sexual abuse by priests have come to light in Europe. I have seen the many ways this has been handled by the press (both fairly and sensationally), the crude and mean-spirited political cartoons in the newspapers and the unfair condemnation of our Holy Father, who is emerging as one of the important reformers for change in the Church. In light of these challenges to our faith I would like to share some pastoral reflections.
Whenever we are confronted with something critical we often times first defend ourselves and refuse to listen. In the midst of this conflict we must remember to never be afraid to face Truth. It is not easy, but we must admit great sins were committed and mistakes in policy led to terrible pain and harm to those Jesus commanded we protect. It is not easy to look into this truth, and there are some who will hope such revelations will destroy the Catholic Church. But while the sins of our Church exposed by the media may seem to deal a fatal blow to the Church, we know there is a greater power at work. The Church can only be renewed and reformed when it allows the Light of Christ to inspire it and guide it. It is precisely our courage to openly acknowledge our faults which allows the Light of Christ to reveal to us the deepest truth of our sin and direct our future actions so this will not happen again. Christ our Light gives us the courage to face the truth and react not with anger, but rather as a witness of compassion and love.
Secondly, hold on to your Catholic faith for it is not based on our sinful nature, but on the person of Jesus Christ. It is Christ who gives authority to our preaching, it is Christ who gives us the grace of conversion and it is Christ who continues to meet us in the Sacraments of the Church. It is Christ who promised “the gates of hell would not prevail against you” (Matt. 16:18) and He also promised, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). Those promises are given to His Church, to us, the Body of Christ. Remember even though this crisis in the Church is serious and difficult, we are always more than our faults.
We should also be encouraged to acknowledge that there are many faithful priests who still serve your parish communities and who find their lives fulfilling. The Church still reaches out to aid the poor, heal the sick and proclaim the Word of God. Also, as the present crisis is coming to light in Europe, you can be proud of what the Catholic Church in the United States has done in response to this crisis. We now have, thoughout the Catholic Church in the United States, a comprehensive policy, (ours is publicly available on our web page), to insure a safe environment in every parish and Church institution. This policy also clearly outlines our response to a report of the abuse of a minor by anyone in the Church.
Thirdly, continue to pray for victims of child sexual abuse and never be angry at them, even for their anger at the Church. We failed them at a time when they trusted the Church. The more we truly seek to understand the harm they experienced and reflect that understanding in our personal witness and in the public actions of the Church, the more we will all experience the healing Light of Christ.
Finally know that I, more than anyone, am aware of the humanity of your Bishop. This awareness humbles me when I realize that Christ entrusted His Church to all of us, sinful though we are, to build His kingdom and to be on earth, the Body of Christ. So that our witness of the love of Christ remains clear, I am committed to creating a safe environment for the vulnerable children and adults of our diocese. If there is any concern you have, please let me know so I can improve our policies, respond to problems and help ease in some way the pain some have felt personally in this crisis. We should support one another with the assurances of our faith, continue to witness the love of Christ and, in every way, work for a personal and a Church-wide conversion of heart.
– Bishop Michael G. Duca