The past month of news reports and new revelations have been filled with much frustration, pain, and prayer for me. After much reflection and prayer, I felt compelled to write a response to the lastest column from Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of the Diocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis: http://thecatholicspirit.com/that-they-may-all-be-one/protecting-young-people-restoring-trust-inspire-commitment-concrete-actions/
What follows are my thoughts on the latest stories we’ve heard and the reaction from our local church leadership:
It is very disappointedly and with a heavy heart that I acknowledge the Archbishop continues to miss the key sentiments and underlying feelings of the faithful as he continues to address the Diocese in this way. The Catholic faithful and I have not lost our faith and belief in a merciful God, in the distinction between right and wrong, nor even in our hard working parish priests who toil every single day to bring the love of Jesus Christ into their communities. The faithful know that a few horrible men who abused their position and the trust of their flock in ways too horrific to imagine can not take away from the noble purpose of the greater Church and the duty of each person to live the life that Jesus calls us to.
However, the faithful have been shattered and left desolated by church leadership in the handling/mishandling of these few men who behaved so egregiously. These priests have been dealt with in ways that do not protect young people, restore trust, or inspire concrete actions; actions that should have taken place years ago. I think most of the faithful prayed and persevered through the painful years of unfolding misconduct and cover-up within the church. I think most felt the worst was behind us, that we could move forward, that we could trust again. The media reports over the last month have not only shown that that is not the case, but further illustrate the lack of concern and the real priorities of the Archbishop’s office. The refusal to share or further investigate evidence brought forward to church leaders, the additional payments to known offending priests – payments that come from the faithful’s donations to their church, and the lack of communication and admission of responsibility remains both arrogant and reprehensible.
I do not profess to know the correct solution. Bright light and great hope emanate from Rome in the person and the humble holiness of the wonderful Pope Francis! Despite this great example, it seems our local church leadership remains desperately clinging to tradition and hierarchy that doom the church to ever fewer faithful through continued distrust born of secrecy and disillusionment. However for the sake of the future of this local church, and ultimately the worldwide church, I do not believe a task force or a new Standards Board will address the deep pain, confusion, and loss of trust that the faithful now experience. It feels likes a cleaning of the house, new leadership, a fresh look from those not currently and not involved over the past 5, 10 years may be what’s required to finally rid the halls of scandal and the taint of abuse and cover-up.
My prayers are for all that are affected by the mistakes of a few and the mistakes of more in their wake…and for the future of our church, may we all be guided by our Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. May all who lead this church hear the call of God, protect those in their care, and stand against evil and sin wherever and whenever it manifests itself.