Abuse Crisis

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As I mentioned in my homilies [in late August], I have begun to review the report of the Grand Jury in Pennsylvania [887 pages]. This report, much in the news these days, is a further chapter in the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The title is "Report of the 40th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury" and was issued by the Attorney General's Office of Pennsylvania. The investigation was conducted over 24 months and includes information obtained from interviews with victims, as well as over 500,000 pages of diocesan documents that were subpoenaed. The members of the Grand Jury are ordinary people from all walks of life. It is very difficult to read, especially the violence against the victims (including rape of children), many of whom were small children when they were abused; as well as the systematic cover-up. As I mentioned in one homily, it is important for us to read this document; if it is hard for me and you, imagine what it would have been like for the victims to be subject to this heinous behavior, and then to recount later what happened. Hopefully they can receive some modicum of peace knowing that more of the truth has come out.

One important question that has arisen for me, as a priest charged with assisting to "lead the flock," is how to help the faithful grasp this crisis, which according to some who know better than I do, is the gravest crisis ever in the American Catholic church. That is, how to pray with the reality of our times, which now includes the rape of children by priests, cover-up by bishops, abuse of power and stature by a cardinal, among many other confusing and maddening things. To be quite honest, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of this crisis, and the evil that happened inside of the church; I honestly do not know how best to pray and worship in the midst of such scandal and trauma--in which the priests and bishops, pope and cardinals are covered with shame and guilt, and the faithful are filled with confusion, anger, and sadness--and, most significantly, the victims have lived (and many have died) with the reality of abuse at the hands of Church leadership. We can say with certainty that God is with the victims and those who have spoken about the truth! That is why I think it is important to read, and prayerfully reflect on the Report.

As we enter into the Communion Rite at the Mass, one of the prayers of the priest is this: "...look not upon our sins, but upon the faith of your church..." I think God is looking upon our sins (I am speaking of the leadership of our church) and I think that the sadness and anger of the those traumatized is, in a way, the sadness and anger of God.

I would like to end this article with information for reporting abuse: if the abuse is happening now, call 911. If you have been abused by Catholic clergy or ministers--or anyone in the church--please report to the proper authorities. To report abuse of a child, contact Child Protective Services at 414-220-7233. In addition, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has an Office for Safe Environment and the phone number is: 414-758-2232. The USA Midwest Province of the Jesuits--of which I am a member--has an office for conduct in ministry and the phone number is 773-935-6363.

Let us pray for the victims and work together for reform!

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