Dear priests: I am begging you to speak about this scandal

Tonight I’m mustering the courage to start reading through the comprehensive grand jury report on sexual abuse and its coverup by the Church in Pennsylvania. And I’m looking up my local bulletin online, trying to find out when Mass is tomorrow. It’s a holy day of obligation, and my family will be in the pew.

Since the first news stories came out, I’ve had my head in my hands. There is nothing else to do. I read about a boy who was so violently raped by a priest, his spine was injured. The victim’s pain was treated with opioids, he became addicted and then overdosed, and now he is dead. I don’t know if the priest is also dead. I don’t even know what to pray for. Mercy on us all.

Mercy on our priests, who must be feeling this atrocity so keenly.

To you parish priests: please, you must speak to your flock about what is happening. Don’t let another Mass go by without saying something. I am begging you. Some of the parishioners somehow don’t know what is going on, and they must know. And many of us have been following the news with dread, and we must know that you understand how nearly unbearable this is. We can’t stand the silence anymore.

We need to know that you are as struck with horror as we are. We need to know that you would be on our side if we were the ones calling the police. We need to know that you care for us more than you care about falling afoul of some toothless pastoral directive from above. We need someone to be with us in this free fall of horror.

I know there are children in the pews, and you don’t want to frighten them; and you don’t want to test the faith of anyone who’s on the brink. But in the pews are also Catholics who have been abused before, and once again, no one is speaking up for them. There are converts who gave up family and happiness to join the Church because they believed the promise of something new and beautiful. They haven’t left yet, but they’re not hearing any Catholic talk about how badly we’ve failed. There are lifelong faithful who feel sick, bewildered, duped, and lost, and we don’t know what to do with this anger and misery, and too many of our bishops are still, still minimizing, complaining, obfusticating, justifying. Or saying nothing at all, hoping that will make it all go away one more time, like it’s gone away so many times before.

I am begging you to say something. Find a way to let us know that you, at least, haven’t turned your back on the victims of the Church. Tell us you’re bringing all that suffering to the altar. We need to hear it.

Dear, faithful priests, we love you and we are praying for you. You’re the one who moves between us and Christ; and you’re also the one who must put himself between us and every one of those wretched thousands of your brother priests who treated the bodies of the faithful like so much kindling, to be tossed into the furnace, consumed, turned to ash, forgotten.

I am begging you to say something. It is a holy day of obligation, and we will be there, listening. You don’t have to have answers for us. Just say something, because the silence of the Church is too hard to bear.


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45 thoughts on “Dear priests: I am begging you to speak about this scandal”

  1. This letter (link at the end of this post) was written by the bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, and it was the first thing that I read that was actually comforting and a relief to me – this bishop took a stand to say that these things are wrong, and if anything like this happens in his diocese, go to the police, but also, he definitely wants to know because he is going to take care of it. I love his direct way of addressing this. He clearly wants to protect everyone, including children and including his seminarians and he is not going to stand for any of the stuff we’ve been reading about this week. The thing he added that I think is so important is that he was going to offer Mass particularly for reparation for these things, and he was asking every one of his priests to do the same – and he had a date and a time, not just “we should pray,” but “we are praying on this date, at this time.” He took leadership in regard to praying about this mess, and even though it’s not my diocese, I felt comforted by knowing that we do have leaders who know how to lead. Very thankful for this bishop. No complaint about my own bishop at all – we received a copy of the USCCB letter which was given out on Sunday, likely at the directive of our bishop, and I thought it was a decent letter as a first draft. But Bishop Morlino’s letter was to me an extremely good response and I hope we will see more like this.

  2. Use this bad occasion to try to inspire good young men to consider priesthood. We need GOOD replacements. We need new enthusiasm for our Faith. The job of a priest is not to teach, rule, and sanctify as has been officially stated by the Church in the past. The real job Jesus said clearly, “love oneanother as I have loved you.” ” AS I HAVE”. “AS I HAVE”. “AS I HAVE”. Can not say it enough. The true love of Jesus WILL teach the truth. It WILL govern with love from God. It WILL bring holiness through the Sacraments. The real love of Jesus will NEVER abuse anyone. The real love of Jesus will NEVER seek itself, but will ALWAYS seek the GOOD, not pleasure, of others. That “good” comes fom God not man.

  3. As a pastor of a small parish, I am encouraged by Simcha’s exhortation to speak on this again at Mass, but more at length than last time I did. I am beginning to pray about how to do so. Also inspired by this post, we will have a special petition in the Prayer of the Faithful for the healing of the victims. Lord have mercy on us all. Come Holy Spirit and renew your church, as by a new Pentecost!

    1. Fr. Nate – I think we need prayer even more than talk, but good to talk about it. Deacon Steven Greydanus posted these petitions (below) at his Facebook site and some may be helpful. I think praying for the victims is a particularly good place to start. Unfortunately most people are too angry to think about praying for the perpetrators who also need prayer, but the victims certainly need prayer and people will want to be supportive to them and to pray – and that is a start. It will take a lot of prayer to heal something so massive. Here are Steve’s prayers as examples – these are what he prayed at Mass on Sunday, and the 2nd one is for the victims. I was sorry that when the USCCB sent out their letter on this, they said some good things, like, having laity take the lead in investigations etc. but – missing was actual leadership in regard to prayer. And their will be no resolution without prayer. Not only prayer, for sure, but not without prayer.

      * * *
      For swift judgment in the house of God, that the Lord who casts down the mighty and lifts up the lowly will overthrow wicked and unworthy shepherds at every level in the Church and uphold trustworthy ones, let us pray to the Lord.

      For consolation and healing for all who have been harmed by sexual violence or exploitation in the Church, that their cries will be heard and their pain assuaged by the love of Christ in his people, let us pray to the Lord.

      For all whose faith has been shaken by corruption in the Church, that Christ the head of the Church will strengthen his own in faith, hope, and charity, and let nothing separate them from his love, let us pray to the Lord.

      For the Lord’s providence for everything we need, that all may enjoy his gifts of life and health, food and shelter, community and family, freedom and safety, and that we may share the burdens of all in need, let us pray to the Lord.

      For divine guidance for all who are in high position, that we may all lead quiet and peaceful lives, let us pray to the Lord.

      For all who suffer in the body and all who have died, that God will give strength and healing to the sick, grace to the dying, and eternal joy to the departed, we pray to the Lord.

  4. Where do we take our outrage? Does anyone else feel that the administrators of our Church have highjacked it? We are the Church. It is terrible when you sense a crisis and it is met with words like shame and sorrow. What about unacceptable and 0 tolerance. What about being really drastic and letting mother’s and father’s and grandparents into the decision making process of our church. It is time to not just be the supporters, or be the supporters who actively fix it. If a mother’s son or daughter is abused and they know it, they would stop it and warn every other parent. Where is the “creeper’s list” for the abusers and their protectors? If you buy a house and you have children you check it. How about a parish? It is time to let the mothers and fathers be priests, bishops and cardinals, decision makers. Some rules need to be changed when they don’t work. Many apostles were married with families. The protestant churches do not have this problem on this scale. If you are really on the side of the victims you have to purge, cut out and start over differently. Maybe it is time to leave behind the high hats, silk dresses, ringed fingers and beach houses. It surely is time to make meaningful changes and use more than words. Again where do we take our outrage? Some have heard enough lectures.

    1. Yes Mary I agree. When the apostles went out they went out amongst the people with one pair of sandals and one extra cloak, right? The Mass was said at a table surrounded by believers, with the priest sitting at the same level as everyone else. Perhaps we have held onto traditions that emerged much later a little too dearly. I’m all for honoring our Lord with great splendor, but perhaps extending this honor to the bishops and cardinals is misguided. After all, as these insadences have so painfully reminded us, they are only men, broken men like the rest of us.

  5. Does anyone know of any books or resources that give tips on how to explain to young children what sexual abuse is and warning signs that a child could easily recognize. My daughter is going to be 2 years old, and I feel like I need to start educating her in a developmentally appropriate way about this subject. This recent news and the news about USA Olympics last winter/spring has really frightened me. I don’t want to her to grow up paranoid, but I also don’t want her to be naïve about this subject.

    1. So far as “developmentally appropriate” goes, it’s easier (imo) if you go with the broader category of “abuse.” That is, you don’t have to be explicit about the sexual part if you teach her:
      *that she can be honest about how she feels and you will back up those feelings (e.g. “It’s okay to feel shy, you haven’t seen Grandma in six months.” rather than “What?! That’s Grandma!”)
      *that it’s okay to say no – and you teach that partly by your own ability to say no. E.g., in our house, it is an absolute rule that if you say “stop” when being tickled or something, the other person is expected to *stop.* (And even though, obviously, at her age, you’re overriding her “no” to you a lot, try to accommodate when you can).
      *modeling healthy boundaries in your own relationships
      *that it is her job to ask you for help when she feels she needs it, and your job to help her. That is, you can’t read her mind and know when she needs you, so she needs to tell you; and you don’t expect her to know how to handle everything, just to learn how. So sometimes you’ll give her the words to use (e.g. “I don’t like having my hair played with.”) and sometimes you’ll step in to keep the person away (because a child cannot have the responsibility of defending himself against an adult).

  6. We should do something. WE are the church too. We have a responsibility. We should be on the streets with the good priests. The others, they have to know that we are not taking it anymore.

  7. I am both a Cradle Catholic and a Catholic by Choice. I was born into a Catholic family, baptized as a child, and I received my first Communion as a second grader, but I wasn’t confirmed until my 30s. Thus, I feel I am both a cradle Catholic Catholic and a Catholic by choice.

    AND I choose to also be a “first responder.” First repsonders run toward the crisis and into the fire.

    The report out of Pennsylvania is awful. I can’t imagine that this is a Pennsylvania thing either. If every diocese was put under a microscope, I believe we would see, tragically, many more instances of where humans have failed and where the devil has triumphed.

    As a nation we have a crisis of morals all around — with many politicians and elected officials who have no moral/ethical mooring, with business moguls in every industry, with bureaucrats in every department of government from the local to the national level.

    As adult Catholics, it is important is to remember the commitments we’ve made in receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, and in remembering the baptismal promises made for us by our godparents and parents. It is also important to remember what Christ said: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19.

    As a Catholic I am part of God’s church. The Evil One wins when we let division happen. I will not turn away. I will not leave. I will run toward the Church in this crisis and I will stay, I will stand by and with the Church. I will continue to seek the Sacraments, to be fed by the Eucharist and refreshed by Reconciliation (Confession), I will continue to worship at Mass. I will remain faithful to the Church, which is both the mystical body of Christ and the bricks and mortar of my local parish and my local diocese. And I will continue to be believe in its teaching as outlined in the Apostles Creed and the Catechism of the Catholic Church because I am a Catholic, a Catholic by birth, by baptism and by choice.

    1. Patti I am with you! I know that this world has evil people in every walk of life! This in no excuse for the actions of these priests,… but , these acts are from evil people, not from the church that was established by our Lord Jesus Christ. I can only imagine the sorrow He feels as He is betrayed over and over by men who are suppose to be caring for His flock! The church is good and holy, it has been infested with people who are not good or holy. Also. A cradle Catholic and will always remain so by choice.

  8. Be careful what you wish for: I heard about the scandal at this morning’s Mass. I learned it was a chastisement sent by God to punish the laity for using contraception, including those who use NFP with a contraceptive mentality. So if we all go home and conceive more kids everything will be okay. Like it was in Ireland before Vatican II, I guess…

    I found myself wishing he had just stuck to talking about the Assumption, to be honest.

    1. I heard th is same homily on YouTube today…glad I’m not the only one who thought it was really off.

      1. Not just off but horrific. I am ashamed that they would give such a homily. Instead of admitting the crimes and vowing to pray for the victims and their families and that drastic changes need to be made.

          1. Wow. Just wow. Since a nice Aristotelian syllogism, but starting from such bizarre premises. Thank you for sharing.

    2. Oh my Lands – I would not have had the fortitude to sit through a homily such as you describe. I am afraid the priest or deacon would have been tarred and feathered.

      1. Alas, I didn’t have the fortitude to get up and walk out, it being a day of obligation and all. I kind of wish I had.

        1. Anna I’m glad I wasn’t in that church, my church did the opposite. A very soulful, deep apology emphasizing the victims. I amembrassed and angry as a practicing Catholic. My question is your priest of his right mind and how old is he? I hope he comes to his senses and apologizes or more so resign.

          1. Thankfully it’s not my own parish! It’s the local Fraternity parish, which was convenient for schedule reasons yesterday. He’s pretty young. Of sound mind? I don’t know; I was certainly wondering yesterday. I found myself wondering about Aspergers during his homily, and marvelling that anybody would let someone like that into the seminary and eventually the priesthood…

            But then again, the Fraternity parish is a bit of an echo chamber. It’s possible everybody there agrees with him and was happy with what he said.

    3. I don’t know where the appropriate place to do so would be, but you should report that priest and that homily. It is insane that anybody could preach like that and get away with it.

      I have to admit that I am losing all respect for the clergy. I feel angry, sad, betrayed.

      1. I am having similar feelings about the clergy. I am so thankful for Simcha for being honest and asking them to be honest with us. And I agree that this homily should be reported because it seems contrary to Church teaching and the beauty of the truth on God’s love for us, something that is easy to lose sight of these days. I was shocked when Pope Francis stopped the practice of making Monsignors but am starting to see the wisdom. I used to hold on to tradition and hierarchy with such fervor without stopping to think that the original priests were ordinary people who sat at table with other Christians, not aloof and loftily individuals. Those traditions spring from a dark time in the Church and I wonder if they have turned into an end in themselves, a sort of sacred ideology, rather than an avenue to Christ.

    4. This is sickening. Little children are punished because Catholic women won’t get in their place and pump out more babies. I am heartbroken. So heartbroken. For children, for women, and for those who are misguided and agree with this priest. It is horrible but I don’t even have the heart to pray for them anymore.

    5. To that priest: How often did you speak about the beauty of the free, full, faithful, an fruitful marital commitment. Not the focus on the sinfulness of contraception, pre- and extra-marital sex, the wrong of divorce but the BEAUTY of the Church’s teaching on these matters. Try the positive. Specifically. Not just some words about the beauty of marriage, which doesn’t work well with wounded people. How often?

      As a Catholic who has been involved in marriage preparation for a good many years, I’ve encountered a few bold and faithful priests who presented the Church’s teaching faithfully and gently challenged young couples to try to follow that teaching. Not telling a co-habiting couple that they are living in sin–period–but telling them how abstaining leads to a richer marriage, encouraging them to consider trying abstinence before the marriage. Not telling them that using contraception is flat-out wrong but telling them that openness to life has challenges but also great riches. (Once we worked with a couple who were asked to draw a picture of their family in 10 years. The guy drew his son from a previous relationship and two more babies. As we continued to talk, he began drawing. His fiancee asked what he was doing. He said he was adding another child. They are currently pregnant with that very child!)

      But I’ve also encountered priests who remember the fallout after Humanae Vitae who don’t talk about contraception. They shy away from the teachings about anything to do with human sexuality and seem to accept the notion that 50% of priests are homosexuals. I don’t think they ever talk about these things in priestly gatherings or even one-on-one with a brother priest. If you isolate yourself, you tend toward cowardice, I think.

    6. I’m hearing that contraceptive Argument too. Like this is our fault. The church was infiltrated with people who wete required to have faith and no morals. Their pictures are on here daily. And there’s more to come in the years ahead. And our Bishop just approved a rainbow flag fly in front of a local church !!!

    7. Anna, I heard a video perhaps of the actual homily you heard, or a very similar homily. That is complete and total nonsense – to even suggest that the lay people are the cause of the problem – and it’s nonsense for many reasons. But here is one reason: The problem with the abuse and with the seminaries becoming corrupt started even before the birth control pill was invented, with priests and bishops who were ordained even in the 1950’s. Some of this started even earlier. There is a book I just bought titled School of Darkness, by Bella Dodd. Dodd was a Catholic who became a prominent American Communist. She was involved in Communist plan to destroy the Catholic church by recruiting men to enter seminary for this very purpose. Some of what we are dealing with today may be the fruit of those efforts in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I have not read the book yet, but hers is not the only one on this subject, and I am interested to learn more. By way of parallel, I have read that in Russia under the Communists, they put the KGB in charge of the seminaries, and basically the KGB (and its predecessor agency) would admit their own men to seminaries, but men with real vocations were kept out, so that the Orthodox Church was no longer the Church but a psuedo church operated by the Soviet spy agency. And of course they spied on their own people, and could exile to Siberia those who were too eager in their faith. I have read about this, so it does not seem so far-fetched to me that some may have attempted this in the U.S. But in any case, the roots of today’s sexual abuse situation have been growing for a good while, and it was not lay people raping children, but nice try to pin the blame on the laity. I heard it and was offended. Considering some of the recent (and past) reports about some seminaries where partying is more prominent than spirituality, it does not seem far-fetched to say the church has been hijacked, and while we still have many good priests and good bishops, some seminaries are training grounds for for very evil behavior, and those men are behaving in ways that will certainly destroy the church if not stopped. But it is not the laity that did this, and thankfully, this mess was recognized as the catastrophe it is where I attended Mass on Sunday. This blame the laity theory may be making the rounds, and is on the internet, but it is wrong to say this rather than praying for the victims and praying for the massive clean up that is needed.

  9. You are writing the words I have in my heart, sister.

    We are still waiting to hear something – *anything* from my bishop. Not a word. Only a copy of Cardinal DiNardo’s statement on our Diocesan website.

    As you say, we need some kind of personal, pastoral statement from our bishops and pastors – every Diocese, every parish. This horror affects us in the laity, right into the heart of our families. It was our children, our seminarians, our priests, our local parishes and Dioceses, that were tortured, victimized, and desecrated. We were asked to bear the blame, the shame, and the cost of the sexual scandals perpetrated by representatives of the Church 15+ years ago. And then told, after the Diocesan and parish coffers were emptied, that it was the laity’s fault that our parishes and schools were closed, because we did not donate enough money nor encourage our children to consider a religious vocation. Not this time – not again.

    I want to believe and trust my parish priest and my bishop and other clergy. We want to love, respect, and follow them to Jesus. But if they cannot be bothered to give us some kind of response, something to cling to, what are we to think? The longer they wait to respond, the angrier the laity becomes, and the less we trust them.

    If the hierarchy thinks ignoring this will make it disappear – no. They need to lower themselves to our level, look us in the eye, and explain their actions and what will happen now, and how it will never, *EVER* happen again.

  10. Fortunately, the Diocese of San Bernardino is “0” tolerance Diocese. We use the Virtus program. We have a special part of our bulletins asking for any information. I am very proud of our Diocese. I am the pastor at a parish that was touched by this many years ago. The pain is still here. The man eventually went to jail and is now deceased. It was before our diocese was created. I am thankful for our transparency.

    1. That’s wonderful that the Diocese of San Bernardino has done a good job addressing this issue. But you’re still part of the US Catholic Church and the universal church, right? When you attended meetings with priests from outside your diocese, did you have your eyes and ears open for potential abuse? How does your diocese respond when information comes in as a response to those bulletin posts?
      I am glad to know that some people in leadership have responded correctly, but “we did things the right way here” is really not enough of a response to this crisis. You need to be willing to start flipping tables like the rest of us — even more so if you know that it is possible to prevent this horrid evil and that other places just haven’t done so.

    2. Thank you for doing what you can within your sphere of influence. I hope and pray that others are willing to do the same but it hopeful to hear that you are doing what you can. Thank you.

  11. Just a few days ago my son said he and his girlfriend were thinking of coming to mass. And my daughhter who left christianity behind for the first time in 2 years talked openly with me about where she is in regards to her belief. This sickening report slammed those doors shut. The evil it contains boggles the mind. And still, instead of true remorse, we get PR from the American Catholic hierarchy who are mirroring our politicians instead acting like followers of Christ. I was weeping yesterday but now I’m pissed.

    1. I know your anger and pain. However, please remember that these men are humans, not gods. Try to talk to your kids about worshiping the One God. They are not worshipping men in black. They have fallen. They have failed. But don’t let their failure keep your children from the glory that comes from a relationship with our one true living God.

      1. I’m sorry but humans do force young boys to give them blow jobs and then wash their mouths out with holy water. Humans do not f*ck little girls until it causes spinal damage. Humans do not force little boys to pose as Jesus on the Cross so they can masturbate to them later. Humans do not secretly have sex with young girls in the hospital when they come for a visit.
        They are NOT human, the are DEMONS, period. STOP trying to soften the blow, face the music and realize the Church is beyond dysfunctional, the literal forces of Hell have penetrated it and they are f*ucking winning as of now. I say it’s time for a reverse inquisition and every cleric is suspect!

        1. Were you personally affected by priestly abuse? Because I was and the way you’re tossing out the most horrifying bits of what you’ve read online to fuel your own and others’ rage feels like you’re exploiting the victims suffering to vent your own spleen. Cut it out.

  12. Our priest trotted out the old tired line last Sunday about how it really isn’t THAT bad, there’s only a few people that did this, etc, etc…

    He’s generally a good man. I was pretty disapointed.

  13. This. Every bit of it. The ‘innocent’ priests and bishops MUST form a coalition and loudly proclaim their disgust. They need to band together and protest now and in November at the Bishop’s meeting. Yes, the silence is deafening!

  14. When I was a kid there was a slideshow showing aborted babies that would be presented during Mass once a year. There was no fear about that. Excuses are just that, excuses.
    Surely there could be a presentation along the lines of a body is a precious vessel without scaring kids other vulnerable people.

  15. Thank you for all of the posts you’ve done on this issue. You are one (of the only) voices of reason who has a strong enough platform where I am hoping it will not fall on deaf ears. Like you my head is in my hands…there are no words, no defenses to be made. For better or worse I’m starting to take the POV that if you haven’t spoken up by now, you must be complicit. Come Lord Jesus!!!!

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