Beloved in Christ,
Over the past several weeks, I have read statements and listened to talks by some of my favorite bishops, priests and lay people regarding the scandal in the Church. I wish I could share all the good points being made, but there is just too much material. I do; however, encourage all the faithful to pray for the victims and show support for the victims. Secondly, I want to condemn any act of abuse, especially any against a minor. I hope the people who committed these acts repent sincerely.
Whenever things like this make the news, we get the question from friends, family and colleagues: “Why are you still Catholic?” For me, personally, it takes me back to the year 2002 right after I began discerning my vocation to the priesthood.
I first met with Fr. Watkins, the vocation director of the Archdiocese, in December of 2001. The next day, I met with my girlfriend and we ended our relationship, so I could discern my vocation. By the time of my third meeting with Fr. Watkins in the interview process, we were into February of 2002. You may recall, in February of 2002 there was an explosion of similar reports beginning with the Archdiocese of Boston and spreading to every other diocese in the United States.
During the interview process, Fr. Watkins asked me: “Is this stuff in the news affecting you at all?” I replied, “No, it’s not affecting me.” As he started to shuffle papers on his desk, I told him I wanted to change my answer. I told him that the abuse crisis was affecting me. It made me have a greater desire to want to be a faithful priest. We were hearing about some unfaithful priests every day in the news media. Although they were very small in number, they were messing things up for everyone else and tarnishing the Bride of Christ, His Church, with their evil.
I have always been 100% convinced of the authenticity of the Catholic Church. Even before studying theology, I knew that Christ founded the Church on the Rock of St. Peter and the other Apostles, and that they sent out their successors to the rest of the world with His authentic teachings and authority of Jesus Christ. Now there were some guys messing it all up for everyone else.
My reaction now feels very similar to that of 2002. How could these men who promised to be both pure, and to strive for holiness, do the exact opposite and commit the most condemnable acts? As things unfolded, we started hearing that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati was actually ahead of the curve. Archbishop Pilarczyk set up a child protection policy in 1993 before it was mandated by the bishops’ conference. I also noticed back in 2002 that the clear majority of cases we were hearing about were from decades before. Now in 2018, it seems that two things are happening. It seems that we are once again revisiting the cases of decades past, but at the same time, there seems to be more evidence that some bishops in our country were not as diligent as they should have been in making sure people were held accountable and things were reported. The increased anger among the faithful makes me optimistic that we will not have to deal with this again in another 16 years.
The revelations about the former Cardinal McCarrick remind me of the time before entering seminary. I was told about how things were in the early 1990s with the presence of a homosexual subculture. This was obviously cleaned up by the time I arrived. I did not see any evidence of such things in my six years there. Our local seminary has an excellent system of forming men to be faithful priests.
I think a great opportunity for purification of the Church is in front of us. We have been given a stark reminder of the universal call to holiness and faithfulness. This call is universal because it is for all God’s people: from the laity to the pope, and everyone in between. Not even popes and cardinals are exempt from the need of a continual conversion of heart.
We see from Jesus’ encounter with St. Paul in Acts 9:4-5 that He equates Himself with His Church. This gives me the confidence to answer like St. Peter did in last Sunday’s Gospel: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
I am happy to discuss this issue with anyone who would like. Please report any suspected abuse on the part of any agent of the Archdiocese to the appropriate civil authorities, as well as to the Coordinator of Ministry to Survivors of Abuse in the Archdiocese. This can be done by calling 513.263.6623.
Sincerely in Christ,