I have several drafts of blog posts in the pipeline but I just couldn’t publish any of them until speaking to the horrible clerical abuse in the PA grand jury report.
I am heartbroken by it. I am sickened by it.
It doesn’t help to dismiss these crimes by pointing out that this doesn’t just happen in the Catholic Church. That doesn’t make it less awful. It doesn’t help to note that most of these cases occurred before the changes made in 2002. Not when those responsible for covering up the crimes of predatory priests and putting other innocents at risk are still in positions of authority. In the face of such evil, it is not time for a PR spin or explanations.
Faithful Catholics feel betrayed, not only by the horrors of the crimes against children but by their shepherds who protected wolves instead of their sheep. It is not shining a light on these crimes that damages the Church. The damage has already been done by predatory priests and those that protect them. We don’t want to read lawyer-speak statements. We want penitence. We are mad as hell. Now is the time for reparation, for change, and for sackcloth and ashes.
We are praying and fasting. And stay tuned for a concerted effort of those in the Catholic blogosphere to pray and fast for St. Michael’s Lent (40 days before Michaelmas). I’ll be sharing about that on social media on Monday.
But we also want to do more. We want to act effectively as lay people and demand action from our priests, bishops, and the Vatican so that this never happens again. So what do we do?
Here’s are some resources:
7 Practical First Steps We Must Take: Elizabeth Scalia for Word on Fire
What’s a Faithful Catholic to Do?: Jenny Uebbing for CNA
Dear Catholic Bishops, Now Is Not the Time to Play Defense: Katie Prejean McGrady for America Mag
Database of publicly accused priests in the US
You can also contact the Archdiocese of Washington if you desire to ask for the resignation of Cardinal Wuerl.
I think that beyond prayer and fasting, the first step we should take as lay people is to speak out to our priests, bishops, and the Vatican by writing letters demanding change and action.
I was so grateful that our priest addressed the crisis in his Assumption homily, expressed his grief over the report’s findings, and said the words, “I’m so sorry,” and explained that he would be available to anyone who needed to talk about it. I definitely needed to hear those words from a member of the clergy. He also prayed for all victims of abuse at the hands of the Church in the prayers of the faithful. I wrote to him how grateful I was for the way he handled what must have been such a difficult homily to give and that we are praying for him and for all good and holy priests.
If your priest has not addressed the crisis yet, you may want to talk to him or write to him. Here’s an example of one such letter to a parish priest. And please, please pray for your priests.
I will be writing to my bishop and to the head of the USCCB. Here’s an example of a letter to a bishop. I will be specifically asking for independent investigators as the grand jury report made clear that we cannot leave matters up to the bishops. They have failed.
If one thing is clear, it is that now is the time to become a saint. That’s what the Church needs. I pray that the Vatican and the bishops will do the hard work that must be done to protect the innocent and bring justice to victims. But we need St. Catherine of Sienas to rise up.
Now is the time to become a saint.. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Our Lady of Sorrows, ora pro nobis.
Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash
I have considered leaving the faith over this thank you for writing this
I think leaving the faith would be like committing spiritual suicide. I understand the hurt, but the Catholic Church is still the Church that Christy founded and contains the fullness of the truth.
I am a former Protestant and new convert to Catholicism. While I am angry at the situation, I still love the Church and would not think of leaving. Simply because I see that these sinful priests are not the Church, but traitors of the Church. If anything, these attacks of Satan only proves that Catholic Church is the church of Christ.
Dear Sarah, Please don’t leave our Dear Lord and Savior and His pure, holy mother Mary over the Judases in our Church! ! Please don’t leave the Eucharist, the great source of life and HEALING over the betrayers of that Eucharist! Please don’t leave all the angels and saints, who have never and would NEVER harm a person made in Gods image and likeness, as those Judases have! The Catholic Church is still ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC, no matter how many Judases there are. Please tell the same to all those who have been harmed by terrible, unfaithful Catholics. The Catholic Church is our source of healing. The Eucharist, Bread of Life and our Dear Lord Himself, is here for us every day to heal our wounded souls. Stay in the Church! Be that saint who lives and loves purely, in love with the Lord Jesus and a good example to all of what a Catholic should be.
I think we need to keep some perspective. Ben Shapiro has some nice commentary on this situation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0aWks5uszg
Just listen to the first 15 minutes of the episode. It is important to look the situation in this way.
This is no time to leave the Church, it is a time to demand more and better of the Church.
As I said in my post, I’m not interested in hearing about how “this happens in every institution.” The Church should be held to a higher standard. Horrors and crimes have been committed against the innocent by those who should have been trustworthy. I want to hear about penitence, justice, and reparation. Not “perspective” if perspective means de-emphasizing the crimes of predatory priests by pointing fingers at other institutions.
Respectfully, Haley, I know your post and your comment says you’re not interested in hearing about how “this happens in every institution.” But I absolutely disagree that perspective “means de-emphasizing the crimes of predatory priests by pointing fingers at other institutions.” I agree that some might use the reality of abuse being a human condition across all institutions as a way to deflect attention from the atrocious crimes committed by Catholic Priests, and that would be 100% wrong. However, there is a time, a place, and even a need to talk about the reality of abuse being a universal human/sin problem and not exclusively a Catholic Church problem.
You are very clear that you have no intention of leaving the Catholic Church and that you know your call (as is the call of every Catholic) is to remain steadfast in the Truth and then to make that Truth known. However, there are many who are not as strong in their faith, or who confuse the Truth of the Church with the broken people who represent Her. And it is those people, the people who are leaving the Catholic Church saying “I’m leaving this broken church and going to find a church where these sorts of things don’t happen” who need to hear the perspective of “this tragic horrible thing is a humankind problem, not an exclusively Catholic problem.” Because for them to abandon the Truth and abandon the Sacraments in a misguided attempt to find a church were abuses don’t happen would be a tragedy, because no such church exists.
And I say this absolutely agreeing with you that the Catholic Church must hold herself to a higher standard than other organizations as with great power (Truth in this case) comes great responsibility. You might not need perspective, and you are right that it is an abuse of perspective to use it to excuse anything. However, having perspective on things is just as vital as knowing that we need to hold each other and hold Church authority to the highest of standards. We do however need to do this while remaining honest about the fact that no matter how high the standard, no matter how much Truth we have we will not be able to eradicate sin until Christ comes again to make all things new. The knowledge that sin will always be with us should in no way stop us from railing against it and from shedding light into the darkness as we are called to do by Christ. So we must fight against sin, never condoning, never excusing, never ignoring it. And, in this case, I believe a part of the fight is recognizing the people who need the perspective that you (and others) say your aren’t interested in hearing, and in being able to give it to the people who do need to hear it so that they can remain in the Catholic Church and can be a part of working for healing rather than leaving.
M- I’m not Catholic but I agree with Haley. I think if I understand your argument it is that abuse is inherent and unavoidable in human systems and therefore the church cannot be free of pedophilic abuse . I think that is incorrect and probably a tempting prestige to take as it helps to reconcile your belief in the goodness of the Church with the terrible reality of
the abuse. The rate of abuse and severity of abuse reported in Pittsburgh is much higher than in other institutions comprised of paid professionals who interact with children, such as schools and hospitals and care centers. The abuse was also hidden and organized in a way that is unprecedented in other institutions in the US. The Church’s fundamental approach and power structures need to change. To say the goal of zero abuse is impossible is not only incorrect but it is an abandonment of past and future victims.
Katherine Heller says
Thank you for this, Haley. I am in the Lincoln diocese and have been shaken to my core over the revelations here as well as those nationally. I have been trying to draft a letter to our Bishop, but I feel paralyzed and numb.
Thank you for these resources and your voice. St. Catherine, pray for us!
Anna Hatke says
I have been thinking about this in prayer. I would never leave the church because I know that even if there are no uncorrupted priests left in our country the faith is more than just the clergy. THat’s clericalism plain and simple. We are the Church too.
But I have been praying about how the clergy could effect change. One thing i realized is that we could withhold all parochial financial support–until voices are heard. According to Canon Law churches can only use donations for what we specify or they have to refuse them. Might it not be time for us to find good priests and gather for mass in each others basements and houses? Might it be a time for sackcloth and ashes and a poorer stronger church? IF our parishes closed their doors and we had to band together and seek out the sacraments wherever we can –I would prefer that to hypocrisy and silence. I have had it with fancy new parking lots and fancy new gymnasiums and megaparishes. The early Christians gathered in the catacombs. . . . Anyway I know you can’t respond to every comment but i just wanted to throw this out there.
Its sad but money speaks. I say—no more. If we are going to heal the priesthood the laity has to step up and say enough is enough.
We are the Church too.
Anna Hatke says
Meant to say “how the laity could effect change” woops! …. and of course prayer comes first but that doesn’t mean there are not times for action in the church. Reform is needed and BADLY.
What do you think of bringing in federal authorities to investigate this? It seems like only something like the FBI has the resources to do a thorough enough investigation that would make everything known once and for all.
Men in power usually does not have a great track record in history. I’m a cradle catholic and I have to say the church in the 80’s and 90’s was completely different. Many times I have felt my parish and catholic school I attended failed me as a child and young adult. These accusations are so heavy on my heart and makes me question the hard church teachings we are asked to follow. These teachings have come from men, men with power, men with privilege. I would never leave the faith but I do look at priest and men in the church with different eyes and will teach my children that they are just regular people not to be put on a pedestal like I was taught as a child.
I also think this is the perfect opportunity to start thinking about women taking a bigger role in the church.
Melinda McBay says
Thank you, Haley. I appreciate your sweet, fierce spirit, and these resources.
Here’s something concrete we can do: https://sevensistersapostolate.org/home/
I am going to organize this in our parish, not formally yet, as in joining the organization, but just seven women from our parish to commit to one Holy Hour per week for our priest, Sept-May. Father gave a very frank talk about this horror today (as directed by our bishop)and, I can tell, feels the weight of his brothers’ sins. It is good that it’s out so now, perhaps, the Church can be cleansed.
St. John Vianney, pray for us!
I’m an Episcopalian but I read your blog sometimes and I always admire your kindness and I admire that you share your faith by gentle example. Thank you for your honesty in this post. I feel absolutely sick when I read about these crimes, and I am encouraged to see so many Roman Catholics finally grasping the magnitude of the sins committed against the innocent, both at the level of individual priests and at the level of the institution and leadership. And I think the Roman Catholic Church has shaken my faith in the Christian religion as a whole. As a non Roman Catholic, I am horrified to see the religious symbols and rituals and sacraments that our denomination shares being debased an used as tools of sin. I will also say that every time I hear “well, child abuse happens in any institution” my blood boils. I think that for the Catholic Church to maintain any credibility on moral or spiritual matters with non-Catholics, that line of reasoning needs to be banished from the minds of everyone in the Catholic Church. To be blunt, you are not evangelizing or winning any converts with that line of reasoning. Haley, thank you for taking a stand against that line of thinking.
Angela M. says
Your blog is always such an inspiring place. I come here to get ideas on helping my family get to heaven. Thank you for your lovely writing.
Thanks so much for writing about this also. I am so upset about this situation.
We have had a couple situations in Nebraska in the last year or two (see links http://www.1011now.com/content/news/Lincoln-Diocese-accepts-resignation-of-1-priest-removes-another-490777351.html, https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/lesson-kalin-diocese-of-lincoln-townsend/) that seem to involve Priests not being able to be married and needing emotional support. Do you think the Church should reconsider it’s stance on Priest’s marrying?
I’m sure you are aware that in some parts of the Catholic faith (like Eastern Rite)
areas, Priests can be married (https://www.catholic.com/tract/celibacy-and-the-
priesthood) . They can convert to the Roman Catholic area and still be
married. It has not always been the case that Priests in the Roman Catholic area
could not be married.
I don’t understand why the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refused to implement a tribunal for convicting bishops who cover up abuse.(https://cruxnow.com/analysis/2017/03/08/mysterious-case-missing-vatican-tribunal/). Have you heard anything regarding why this refusal might be legitimate?
I feel like the Church learned nothing from the scandals from the 80s and 90s. I thought the lesson from all of that was that the Church cannot be prideful. Our Bishops are great, but they are not experts on when a priest has been rehabilitated for example. I thought anyone in the church who learned of any allegation of a priest breaking the law, that could endanger children or young adults, should call the police. Apparently that still is not the case in Lincoln, Nebraska.
I wanted to add one item to your list of things you can do. Our Diocese has a “Review Board” that is supposed to be involved in any allegations, and specifically to help the Archbishop determine if a priest has been rehabilitated (https://archomaha.org/ministries/safe-environment/review-board/) I was dismayed to learn that all of the great procedures start with the discretion of the Bishop starting them.
Thank you for your form letter to the Bishop to use. I will use it to write to our Archbishop about the procedures, and how they need to remove all discretion (in my opinion). I also think the Review Board needs to be required to take into account some expert opinions on whether the priest has actually been rehabilitated.
Thanks again. God Bless you and your work!
I hope you, your family, and your new baby are all doing well!
Barbara Abbate says
I think this is a great idea. I signed it and hope that many Catholics do and that they forward and share it. The number of signatures is doubling daily, how big can we make it?
I agree with everything and there are no excuses. I’m embarrassed and angry, especially regarding resources used to cover up predatory behavior. I am rethinking so many things about the Church, and I want to hear more voices recognized rather than shut down and shamed. I’m glad to see your resources, and I hope we are able to heal.
Mom of Six says
As a non-RC with relatives who are, I must say I’m kind of surprised Catholics are still surprised by this kind of news. I was told that my grandparents’ community was assigned a priest many years ago who attempted to rape two (adult) men during their premarital counseling. One was able to fight off the priest and the whole community tried to campaign for the rapist to be de-frocked. He was simply reassigned…:(
I think that no one looks at the Holocaust and thinks, well, genocide happens in other countries, so let’s reflect on how sin is part of the human condition. On the contrary, I think Germans did a lot of soul-searching and asked themselves, was I complicit by tolerating unacceptable power structures? Were certain ideals or norms in German culture somehow conducive to allowing atrocities? And things changed. I am not suggesting that the laity is in any way responsible for the horrifying acts committed by these priests and the subsequent enabling and coverup. But I do wonder, should the laity now question which aspects of Catholic culture are truly from God and which are handed down from generation to generation with no biblical basis. Should Catholic culture value questioning authority more? Should Catholic culture examine and question whether there are false idols that should be reconsidered? Especially in regards to the role of women or the role of authority in the Church.
Absolutely. Some of us have been ringing this bell for a long time! Maybe this is God’s way of forcing others to ask these questions.
Is anyone aware of a reliable study that compares the amount of priests involved in the sex abuse scandal who are Latin Rite versus Eastern Rite Catholic priests? I would be interested in such a study. Even though the number of Eastern Rite Catholic priests may be lower, I would still like to see numbers compared.
Anna Hatke says
I second this! Would love to know the statistics. I have always felt like eastern rite catholics have on the whole a healthier relationship with their priests–seing them as fellow sinners, no automatic “rock star” celebrity status if you enter the seminary with your pic on a poster everywhere and tons of pressure and applause. They seem much more in solidarity with their communities as a rule. . . . but that’s just my very limited experience . . . .
Thank you. I have the same limited experience. I observed it is still a custom amongst at least a few Eastern Rite Catholics to kiss the hand of the Bishop. But from what I observed, this is a beautiful custom that might actually recognize the significance of the Sacrament that the Bishop’s hands bring about versus an unhealthy hero-worship. But, again, I could be wrong. Still, I think we need to take a breath of air from “the other lung” since our lung is clearly sick at the moment.
Thank you for writing about action items. I have been trying to post “things we can do” as
well. Words are not going to be enough. I would like to see any bishop or cardinal that was involved in the cover up resign. I believe it is important for Catholics to see that there are changes at the top. I also think we need outside investigations of all of the Dioceses around the country. It will be painful, but I would rather we all deal with it now, than every year or two of more drip drip drip. I have also posted a novena from pray more novenas for friends to pray on my face book page. We need to pray for transparency, and accountability. God help us.
A point of perspective: Our priest addressed this crisis on Sunday after Mass. Father said there are 44,000 priests in the US; 42,000 of them are good and want to be good priests. (“Not that that justifies any wrongdoing, not at all; just don’t kill the god with bad”)
The “homosexual mafia”, which is at the heart of this problem (a good book to read on this topic is “Goodbye Good Men”), is relatively small, but, driven by satan himself, is very powerful. Cardinal Burke and other good bishops (e.g. Bishop Morlino, Madison, Wis.) have spoken clearly on this issue https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cardinal-burke-homosexual-culture-in-church-hierarchy-must-be-purified-at-t
it is absolutely ridiculous to blame this issue on gay priests and NOT on the systems of patriarchy and power that elevated abusers and kept victims silent, deliberately ignoring the direct commands of Christ in the Gospel to protect children *and* the American legal system which forbids this kind of behavior in every way. If you’ve read the reports, you’ll notice that male and female children were and are victims — and it might also help you to remember that sexual violence usually has very little to do with sex (or sexual orientation) and everything to do with power and control.
Amen. It is sickening.
Please read this before requesting Weurls resignation, however https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/cardinal-wuerl-named-in-pennsylvania-grand-jury-report-responds-to-criticism-54373
Also read more on Weurl. I definitely think he should resign. I am so disheartened by all of this.