I believe that I used remarkable restraint. This letter went to the bishop and to the sister who acted as our meeting and diocese facilitator down at our Cambridge overnight. This seems to me to be a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
I am struggling greatly with this letter. Every time I think it is composed to send something else appears in the news paper in reference to the clergy sexual scandal in the diocese. Hence I’ve written and re-written this trying desperately to make you see that the scandal is not going away and will not go away unless decisive action is taken. The clergy exercise that took place in Cambridge was a positive experience for the most part but the one thing that is effecting the diocese that is far-reaching is the clergy sexual abuse scandal. This letter started out to be not only kudos for the Cambridge exercise but also a dire warning.
It does not matter how well we as a diocese do our liturgies. It does not matter how prayerful we conduct all of our parish events. What matters is this ongoing scandal. That scandal is coloring everything we do or do not do.
The blame of everyone and everything else has to stop. Not only people who were abused are victims. The people who have stayed with the Church are victims too. Some priests have suggested that parishioners are still blaming those who had been abused. (We know why it was that lawyers and courts had to get involved.) Both the people and the clergy of this diocese deserve to know that the vast majority, (a percentage would help here), of the cases brought against the diocese were legitimate, they were investigated and found credible, or the offending priest himself admitted to the crime. Making this public knowledge that is forthcoming from the diocese and has not been mandated by the courts would go a very long way in healing all of us.
We know that perception is not always truth but in the minds of many people in the public and in the clergy perception is truth. The perception is that the diocese only did what it legally had to do and only after court involvement. The perception is that there has been an extensive cover-up in the diocese. Even if the reality is just that some monsignor’s broke laws, Church, criminal, civil, looking for conspiracies seems justified to the public. Take that away and the battle for the reputation of the Church gains leaps and bounds.
Placing blame does nothing for healing. Not understanding the perceptions, true or false, that abound both inside and outside of the Church does nothing for healing. Not seeing that this issue, from whatever side you are personally viewing it, is connected to all the things that we say and do in the diocese for the next three, five, 10 years and on works against us.
I personally have been told by people who had left the Church eons ago, (and really have no intention of coming back), that the sexual scandal is just a giant confirmation for their actions. Where are the vocations to the priesthood? The clergy sexual abuse scandal cannot be discounted as one of the many reason that they are not materializing. Where are the young people and young families in our pews? Societal changes and shifts are partly to blame yes but the clergy sexual abuse scandal cannot be discounted. Everything is connected. If this mess is not resolved or even addressed adequately, humbly, and very, very soon then the victims will suffer in even greater ways and the biggest sufferer will be the Church.