September 30, 2018

A week ago Friday, on September 21, the priests of the Archdiocese gathered with Archbishop Sartain for discussion and prayer. Fr. Michael and I were part of this gathering and we both found it very helpful.

The focus of the day was the sexual abuse crisis and its impact on our parishioners and on ourselves. The Archbishop opened the meeting with a prayer and then we proceeded with a process that enabled us to discuss our thoughts and feelings about the current crisis in our Church.

The discussion was frank. We listened to each other and the Archbishop listened to us. The conversation addressed many of the issues that parishioners have raised with Fr. Michael and me. There is among priests, and all of us, a deep concern about the lack of transparency in the leadership in the Church that allowed bishops to cover up the crimes of priests and others who work in the name of the Church.

These crimes, perpetrated against children, destroyed lives and continues to have a lasting impact on those who were abused. The clear evidence that many bishops put the preservation of the reputation of the Church ahead of the protection of children reveals a fundamental failure of leadership in our Church.

The two questions that guided our discussion were, “What is weighing most heavily on your heart at this time?” and “What do you want to convey to the Archbishop and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops?”

We discussed our feelings and shared ideas, and the Archbishop listened to suggestions on how to reform the Church’s leadership to be more responsive to the needs of people, especially to the most vulnerable among us.

This discussion has also been happening among parishioners in an informal way over these past weeks. Many of you have shared your thoughts and feelings with Fr. Michael and me. We would like to provide an opportunity for parishioners to continue to contribute to the discussion at two parish meetings. The first is this Sunday, September 30, from 2:00-3:30 pm, at St. Joseph, in the Parish Hall. The second is this coming Wednesday night, October 3, from 7:00-8:30 pm at St. Thomas, also in the Parish Hall.

At those meetings, we will use the questions that guided our discussion at our meeting last Friday, as well as these additional questions: What ideas do you have to help solve the problem of governance for our Church? How do we better involve the people of God in the process? What suggestions do you have for a unified pastoral strategy for our Archdiocese?

The answers to these questions will be collected and forwarded to the Archbishop for consideration at both the Presbyteral Council meeting on November 8th, and the national meeting of the U.S. Bishops, later in November.

Please plan to join us at one of these meetings this Sunday from 2:00-3:30 pm at St. Joseph, or Wednesday from 7:00-8:30 pm at St. Thomas.

Our meeting with the Archbishop concluded with us gathering in the Cathedral for Stations of the Cross. It was a powerful and moving experience of prayer. The meditation on the Twelfth Station was a quote from Cardinal Ratzinger, who in 2005, led the Good Friday Stations of the Cross in Rome, just a few weeks before he was elected Pope Benedict XVI. Here is a portion of that meditation: “Ever anew you are being nailed to the cross. At this present hour of history, we are living in God’s darkness. Through your great sufferings and the wickedness and inaction of men, even priests and bishops, the face of God, your face, seems obscured, unrecognizable. And yet, on the Cross, you have revealed yourself. Precisely by being the one who suffers and loves, you are exalted. From the Cross on high you have triumphed. Help us to recognize your face at this hour of darkness and tribulation. Help us to believe in you and to follow you…”

Amen.

Fr. Gary Lazzeroni