Dear St. Catherine Parish Family,
I often reflect on the time when I finally made a firm decision to enter seminary and begin my studies for the priesthood. It was early 2002. Many of you may remember that it was precisely at this time that the clergy sex abuse scandal broke in Boston, and then later in other parts of the United States. I remember at that time feeling very conflicted. I felt that the Lord might be calling me to the priesthood, but I also remember feeling so embarrassed to even be associated with the priesthood and was very reluctant to tell people that I was thinking about becoming a priest.
I tell you this because even though I have now been a priest for over 10 years, those same feelings have arisen in my heart today. Please do not misunderstand me; I love my priesthood, and cannot imagine anything else for my life, but I am embarrassed once again by the news that you have undoubtedly heard (or will undoubtedly hear) regarding the grand jury report released in Pennsylvania today. The report relates incidents of sexual abuse in six dioceses in Pennsylvania perpetrated by clergy and other Church leaders over several decades.
The report, in a word, is sickening. And as embarrassed as I am as a priest to read about so many evil acts perpetrated against children by clergy, I am more heartbroken and saddened as I think about all the victims who have suffered so greatly. And what makes matters even worse is that so many times, these actions were covered up or simply ignored by bishops or other Church leaders who were responsible for protecting our children.
Although I do believe that since 2002, the Church has made great strides in ensuring that our children are protected and that any perpetrators of sexual abuse in the Church are dealt with swiftly, it has become painfully obvious, particularly in light of the recent revelations regarding Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, that much more needs to be done to root out those who have perpetrated or been complicit with these kinds of evil. And as your pastor, I want to assure you of my commitment that I will have zero tolerance for any kind of sexual abuse perpetrated by anyone: priest, religious, or laity.
I know that many Catholics feel betrayed by what they have been hearing and reading about the Church in recent days and weeks. I share in your feelings of betrayal. But I beg you not to abandon the Church because of this. There is undoubtedly much evil that has existed among leaders of the Church, even at the highest levels, but I can honestly say that the vast majority of priests that I know are good and holy men who are truly striving to serve the Lord and his people with generosity and faithfulness. I am a priest today precisely because of the example of several of these priests, whom I believe are truly saints.
We must always remember that despite the sins of many in the Church, it is still the Lord’s Church. And through the Church we have the guarantee that Christ’s truth will be taught. And through the priesthood we have the Lord Jesus truly present in the Eucharist.
I ask you to please pray for the Church and for all those who have been harmed in any way by the leaders of the Church. And please pray for all bishops and priests, and especially for me as your pastor, that we would be faithful to the ministry entrusted to us and never betray the Lord. Please know of my prayers for you all and your families. If you ever have any questions or concerns related to these matters, please do not hesitate to contact me.