This was a tough week to be a priest and a tough week to be a Catholic with the repercussions of the McCarrick scandal and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. And I hate it when it is a tough week to be a priest because I love what I do and I am sure that you hate it when it is a tough week to be a Catholic because you love your faith. But we need to look at stark reality.
As for the situation in Pennsylvania, for me it was both expected and shocking. As someone who has lived with this for such a long time, the numbers as horrifying as they are seem to be comparable to most dioceses, ours included based on the priests who have been removed listed on our website. And it is gratifying that things have improved since the implementation of “Charter for Protection of Children” in 2002.” But it is impossible not to feel the shame of those stories of those who manipulated and violated so many. To feel the horror of what happened to those children. But what really angers me is the failure of leadership. It is embarrassing that at the end of the day, our church acted with no more morals or scruples than Hollywood.
It seems to me there is a crisis in leadership everywhere across the spectrum of our institutions and all boundaries of society. In theory, the leader is the most accountable in an organization for all that happens. In reality, it seems that leadership and power shields people from accountability. That is especially tragic for the church for we should be following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate leader. Jesus did not exploit the lost sheep; he rescued it, healed it and carried it home. We must have incarnational leaders, who are intimately bound to the people; leaders who as Pope Francis says,know the smell of the sheep, who are on the side of the powerless, the small and the victim.
Bishop Scharfenberger has responded brilliantly with a letter in this week’s bulletin and another we will hear from the pulpit next week and is available on the diocesan website. I am so honored to serve him. He tells us not to lost hope. You are our hope. You will need to lead us, make us accountable and transparent. The Church needs you. Just as we have betrayed the Spirit in sin and the Spirit does not betray us so our Church has betrayed the Spirit that leads and guides it, but the Spirit does not betray the Church. We can still feel it in the Eucharist, in our school which provides delight and hope for so many, in our outreach, our kindness, our charity and our love. Yes, we are bruised and shamed. But God is still present here.