33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 17, 2019
As I write this on November 12, the Bishops from around the country are meeting at the USCCB fall assembly in Baltimore. During the assembly, the US bishops will: vote on several new/updated documents; establish Revised Strategic Priorities for the 2021-2024 Strategic Plan; elect the new Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services; hear an update on progress toward establishing a nationwide, third-party reporting system for abuse or misconduct by bishops; elect a new president, vice president, and new chairmen of six committees. I’ll highlight results in coming months. At the same time Bishops of the US are making their ad limina visits to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis. The Bishops visit in groups, last week a group from NY visited, prior to that other Bishops from the northeast visited, in December Bishop Braxton and other Bishops from the Midwest will visit. During his visit in early November, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, noted how their prayer at the tomb of St. Peter and the earlier celebration at the tomb of St. Paul form “the very essence” of the pilgrimage bishops are required to make regularly to Rome to strengthen their faith and their bond with the pope and to report on the status of their dioceses. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. Take some time to reflect and give thanks for the gifts that God has given you and how you can use those gifts to better serve our parish and the Catholic Church and pray for those who are less fortunate. The Sunday after Thanksgiving is the 1st Sunday Advent and the beginning of the new liturgical year (Year A Sunday cycle of readings) and we begin using our new hymnals. It will take some time to adjust to using the hymnals so please be patient as we adjust and feel free to ask questions.
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 20, 2019
In my homily a couple weeks ago I mentioned the 6 short little stories, or really short statements, that were little reminders to me of what it is to have faith; and also, hope, love, and some of those other truths in life that we sometimes tend to forget about. Many of you asked me for those so I have posted them here https://www.ssppcc.org/from-the-deacon-s-desk
Last Sunday morning we celebrated the Rite of Candidacy at the Cathedral for the 16 men from our diocese who are in formation to be ordained Permanent Deacons, including Dave Miskell from our parish (see picture). Candidacy is a rite in the Church that all people aspiring to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders receive before ordination; in this case about 4 years before ordination anticipated to be in 2023 for these men. The Rite of Candidacy is the Church accepting a person to continue on to receive Holy Orders. It’s the church saying “this person has the qualities we are looking for to become a deacon/priest” and it means they have confidence in us. During the Rite, the Bishop Braxton asked the men – “Beloved sons, the pastors and teachers in charge of your formation, and others who know you, have given a favorable account of you, and we have full confidence in their testimony. In response to the Lord’s call, do you resolve to complete your preparation so that in due time through Holy Orders you will be prepared to assume ministry within the Church? Do you resolve to prepare yourselves in mind and spirit to give faithful service to Christ the Lord and his Body, the Church?” And the men reply I do! When you see Dave and Michelle Miskell please thank them for accepting this call to the diaconate.
Homily Excerpt - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 6, 2019
...….. Here are 6 little stories that were posted on Facebook last week. These short little stories, or really short statements, were little reminders to me of what it is to have faith; and also, hope, love, and some of those other truths in life that we sometimes tend to forget about. Here are those 6 little stories.
So if you need to be reassured of your faith, or your hope, your love, your trust, remember these 6 little stories and maybe you’ll be reminded that you do indeed have them because of what you see, or what you do, or what you encourage others to do. We set alarms, we make plans, we encourage marriage and having children, we laugh when those babies laugh when they are thrown in the air and their daddy catches them.
25th Sunday Ordinary Time - September 22, 2019
Ever wonder who the Saints and martyrs Cornelius and Cyprian (Memorial was September 16) are other than they are two of several mentioned in that long list of saints in Eucharistic Prayer I? Or what the September 14 Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross is? They are all kind of closely related in that they were popularized over a 77 year span in the 3rd and 4th centuries. September 14 we honor the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Jesus’ triumph upon it. I know we frequently pray the Prayer of St. Michael, and I know that the devil is present and at work in our society, but this Feast should remind us that, as I heard a pries say at a recent conference, WE WON! Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross was victory over evil and we should not lose sight of that. In that Feast, we are reminded of God’s plan of Salvation and His work to raise up humankind through the saving power of Jesus Christ. In Christ on the Cross, sin is overcome and we are offered a new life, with Christ at the center. According to a traditional account, the relics of the holy cross were discovered by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, in 326 when she was on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem. The relics were captured by Persians but later returned in 628 and now reside at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Saint Cornelius was ordained bishop of the Church of Rome in 251. He fought against the Novatian schismatics and with the help of Cyprian was able to enforce his authority. Saint Cyprian was born of pagan parents in Carthage around the year 210. He was converted, ordained, and subsequently made bishop of that city in the year 249. By his writings and his actions Cyprian guided the Church through difficult times.
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 18, 2019
Bishop Braxton turned 75 this year and many have asked about, and I have heard lots of rumors about Bishop Braxton’s retirement, or maybe I should say alleged retirement. Here’s what Canon Law says about a situation like this. “A diocesan bishop who has completed the seventy-fifth year of age is requested to present his resignation from office to the Supreme Pontiff, who will make provision after he has examined all the circumstances.” (Can. 401 §1.) So this means Bishop Braxton is waiting for the Holy See (i.e. Pope Francis, Vatican, etc.) to provide direction on what happens next, when, who, where, etc. I was in a meeting with Bishop Braxton last week planning his calendar for 2019/2020 (e.g. Confirmations, special Masses, school visits, etc.) and the Bishop confirmed that this is the case and that when he receives word/direction from the Holy See, the people of the diocese will also be informed. In the meantime, it is business as usual in the diocese and with Bishop Braxton. It was good to see such a great turn out last Sunday to wish Fr. Sebastian farewell, welcome Fr. Evaristus, and thank Angela Atkinson for her years of service to our PSR program. Thanks to all who worked so hard to make that wonderful event possible. As one long time parishioner put it to me in a text message last Sunday evening – “That party today deacon was the most heartwarming from 3 years old to 90 years old that I've ever participated in my 75 years St Peter and Paul you know how to do it thank everybody you can.” Kudos to all who made it possible and best wishes to Fathers and Angela in the future endeavors.
16th Sunday Ordinary Time - July 21, 2019
Lots of Feasts and Memorials this coming week – St. Mary Magdalene, St. Bridget, St. Sharbel Makhluf, St. James, and Sts. Joachim & Anne. Not enough space to cover all of them here but I will highlight two of them: St. Mary Magdalene – disciple of Jesus, present at crucifixion, first to witness the risen Lord (hence called apostle of the Apostles), and it is almost universally agreed today that her being identified as the sinful woman is unfounded; and, St. Makhluf – born in 1828 in Lebanon, monk of the Maronite Rite, ordained a priest in 1859, spent last 23 years of his life as a hermit, taught the value of poverty self-sacrifice and prayer by the life he lived, possessed the gift of performing miracles, canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1977. By way of update on the evil of sexual abuse that has occurred in the Church and steps toward prevention: 1) in May Pope Francis issued an Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio - Vos estis lux mundi (You are the light of the world) containing new laws to be followed in the Catholic Church around the world; 2) at the June meeting of the USCCB, the Bishops of the US voted on several proposals to hold Bishops accountable for investigating instances of sexual abuse and committed to involving and utilizing lay professional experts in the process to avoid ‘bishops policing bishops’. The combination of lay involvement, Metropolitan leadership, and review/judgement of the Holy See will ensure that all complaints are evaluated thoroughly, and justice is achieved for victims and survivors. The USCCB also established New Resource Highlighting Steps to Confront Clergy Sex Abuse https://preventionusccb.org/ , a new website that reinforces the importance of prevention, protection and accountability in response to the ongoing work to eradicate clergy sexual abuse. There are links on that website to the Motu Proprio, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, FAQs, and other resources. This and all my more recent From The Deacons Desk articles with the active hyperlinks can be found on our parish website here http://www.ssppcc.org/from-the-deacon-s-desk
Most Holy Trinity - June 2019
Happy Father’s Day to all the Fathers out there. This Father’s Day is kind of special for me, I have the privilege of Baptizing our first grandchild today. Almost three years ago, I witnessed our son Nick’s marriage to our daughter-in-law Margaret and now I will Baptize their first child Harrison. Marriages and Baptisms are two of the greatest joys of my Diaconal ministry – when they are for your children and grandchildren, it is even more special. God is good! Today is the Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity, Most of us probably think of the Trinity just like we have the Trinity portrayed in our Sanctuary: Old guy, Bird, Young guy (in our case the crucified young guy). It is natural for us to think of the Trinity this way – it is human. We have a difficult time grasping the concept of a Trinity that is 3 in 1 because we want to think of 3 persons, 3 minds, 3 bodies, etc.; we cannot grasp that in the case of the Trinity, the 3 are 1 – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the divine essence. Here’s a way that helps me - think of the Trinity as the Lover (God), the Beloved (Jesus), and the love between the Lover and Beloved (Holy Spirit). (excerpt from my refection the day after my ordination in 2013) Don’t forget to join us after 10 a.m. Mass next Sunday June 23 for our first ever (or at least first in a long time) Eucharistic Procession in celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (aka Corpus Christi). Then join us again on the following Sunday June 30 for a tour of our church. This past week on June 13 we celebrated the Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, do you know where his statue is? Come to our church tour and you’ll find out this and much more.
5th Sunday of Easter - May 19, 2019
Hot topics this month: Pope Francis issues rules regarding abuse, abortion legislation in Illinois, and new appointment for Deacon Tom. From the St. Louis Review (https://www.archstl.org/vatican-issues-universal-norms-for-reports-of-abuse-of-minors-seminarians-and-religious-3995 ) – “Pope Francis has revised and clarified norms and procedures for holding bishops and religious superiors accountable in protecting minors as well as in protecting members of religious orders and seminarians from abuse. The new juridical instrument is meant to help bishops and religious leaders around the world clearly understand their duties and church law, underlining how they are ultimately responsible for proper governance and protecting those entrusted to their care. For this reason, the new document establishes a clearer set of universal procedures for reporting suspected abuse, carrying out initial investigations and protecting victims and whistleblowers. The new document, given “motu proprio,” on the pope’s own initiative, was titled “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”), based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:14).” Pope Francis’s Apostolic Letter issued “motu proprio” can be found here http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/motu_proprio/documents/papa-francesco-motu-proprio-20190507_vos-estis-lux-mundi.html . Regarding pending abortion legislation in Illinois, don’t forget to join our panel discussion Sunday May 19 after 10 a.m. Mass, see today’s bulletin for details. On May 10, Bishop Braxton appointed me Director of the Permanent Diaconate for our diocese. Don’t worry, my other appointments, including my assignment as a Deacon to our parish remains the same. This new appointment is in addition to my other appointments, not in place of them. This and all my more recent From The Deacons Desk articles with the active hyperlinks can be found on our parish website here http://www.ssppcc.org/from-the-deacon-s-desk .
Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord - April 21, 2019
From the Deacon’s Desk……………..
Easter blessings to all of you. We now begin our celebration, with joy and exultation, of the Easter Season, the fifty days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost (June 9). Fifty days of dwelling in the paschal mystery, surrendering in joyful faith and love as the Spirit of God takes possession of our lives. An invitation to awaken our memory of God’s presence and power in our lives. (paraphrased from the Ordo).
Much in the news about abortion but not about the new movie Unplanned. Lots of chatter on social media about Unplanned, I saw it and I recommend you do too (good blog on it here https://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2019/04/unplanned-becomes-the-latest-battleground-in-the-culture-wars/ ). On the political front, states seem to be trying to outdo the other in terms of legislation regarding abortion. On one extreme there are states like New York that now allows full-term abortions and on the other extreme there are states like Missouri where lawmakers have proposed bills to further limit or almost completely ban abortions including a constitutional amendment to define life as beginning at conception (what we Catholics believe see CCC 2270 - 2274). In Illinois our lawmakers are proposing legislation that our Bishops are asking us to take a stand against: Senate and House bills (S.B. 1942 and 1594 and H.B. 2495 and 2467) which would expand abortion rights and increase abortions. In the text of S.B. 1942 are clauses that “(provide) that a fertilized egg, embryo, or fetus does not have independent rights under the laws of this state” and clauses that “repeal the Abortion Performance Refusal Act,” current law allows physicians to opt-out of providing abortions provided they have moral objections. For more information see https://www.osvnews.com/2019/03/29/bishops-condemn-bills-to-expand-abortion-repeal-conscience-protection/ and https://www.diobelle.org/our-bishop/news/1334-bishop-braxton-s-letter-on-the-catholic-church-and-new-house-bills-expanding-abortion-rights-2 . For how to contact our lawmakers and voice your opposition, go to the Catholic Conference of Illinois website https://www.ilcatholic.org/ . We are planning to host a panel discussion regarding these Illinois bills after the Masses on May 19, keep an eye out for announcements and bulletins notices and plan to attend.
March 17, 2019
From the Deacon’s Desk……………..
Thanks to all of you who shared with me, Dawn, and our family, your condolences, thoughts, prayers, sympathy cards, and your presence at the visitation and funeral Mass for my father; we are truly blessed to have all of you in our lives and have your support at that time of loss. We were blessed to have dad in our lives for almost 96 years and are comforted by our hope in eternal life and that – now he knows. On this second Sunday of Lent, I would also encourage you as a part of your Lenten prayer to read and reflect on the weekday readings (they are listed in the bulletin every week). Paraphrasing from the ORDO - In the cycle of weekday readings, Lent falls into two parts, the first part, runs through Saturday of the 3rd week of Lent. In these 3-1/2 weeks, the Gospel texts are taken from the Synoptics and the Old Testament readings are chosen accordingly. The message running throughout these 3-1/2 weeks is a call to a life of Gospel conversion. The pericopes speak of beginning anew, of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving; of conversion; of mutual forgiveness; of hardness of heart; of love of enemies; of absolute claims of justice and love over ritual and cult; of the call to holiness, and so forth. The readings from the second half of Lent are taken from the Gospel of John. It is clear that these readings from John do not constitute a kind of “crash course’ in the life e of Jesus, so much as a presentation of the mystery of Jesus Christ, of whom John says that all who believe in him will have eternal life.
February 17, 2019
Dawn and I were away on vacation in January so this is the first From the Deacon’s Desk since December 16, so lots to cover here. On Dec. 19 Fr. Osang, Fr. Sebastian and I hosted our Clergy Abuse Crisis Listening Session, it was very insightful to hear the perspectives of the half dozen or so parishioners who attended, thank you for your participation. Here are a few recent updates regarding this. Bishops from across the United States attended a spiritual retreat January 2 to 8 to pause in prayer as the Church seeks to respond to the signs of the times. There were two events in Washington: a lawyers' panel at the Catholic Information Center, sponsored by the Thomas More Society Jan. 31; and, the Leadership Roundtable's Catholic Partnership Summit Feb. 1 - 2. The summit, which included bishops, cardinals, university and college presidents and canon lawyers representing 43 dioceses, is expected to issue a document with recommendations in a couple of weeks. Pope Francis convenes the Presidents of all the Episcopal Conferences of the world for a meeting in Rome Feb. 21 – 24 to discuss the prevention of abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. Regarding this meeting, Pope Francis recently stated “First: they must become conscious of this. Second: they must know what they must do — the procedure, because often the Bishop doesn’t know what to do. … What must the Bishop do, what must the Archbishop do, who is the Metropolitan, what must the President of the Episcopal Conference do. But so that it is clear, … protocols that are clear. This is the main <thing>. … I permit myself to say that I have perceived a bit an inflated expectation.” (Full text here https://zenit.org/articles/holy-fathers-in-flight-discussion-with-reporters-full-text/ ) Please pray for these Bishops as they gather this week, and all those affected by clergy abuse. As we heard today in our first reading from Jeremiah, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord.” Have hope and be faithful.
Changing gears a bit, Bishop Braxton has authored many documents. One of the most recent is - The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: What if he were still alive today? It can be found here https://www.diobelle.org/our-bishop/writings or I can provide you a copy. I suggest that you take the time to read this document. Once you have, I would be interested in what you think about it. Please let me know via email [email protected] or I’d be happy to discuss it with you over the phone 618.939.6426 ext. 26 or in person.
December 16, 2018
We are midway thru Advent, hence the Rose (pink) vestments. From the ORDO – “Advent has a two-fold character, for it is a time of preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when, by remembrance of this, minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time. For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.” Hopefully your Advent preparations are progressing well. There are lots of ways to do this: maybe The Word Among Us – Daily mediations for Advent books that were available at the exits of Church; or Dynamic Catholics, Best Advent Ever; or Bishop Barron’s Advent Gospel Reflections; maybe an occasional Mass on a weekday; reconciliation; or any one of the many other ways we can prepare. One that I saw posted on Facebook, which I tried and failed to keep up with, was to read one chapter of the Gospel of Luke every day beginning December 1st . There are 24 chapters in Luke so by doing that you would get through the entire life of Jesus according to Luke by Christmas. Too late now, but If you started reading one chapter a day now, you would at least finish during the Christmas Season which will extend through January 13, 2019. If I can help with your preparations, let me know, (939.6426 ext. 26 or [email protected] ). Please consider joining us this Wednesday evening for our Clergy Abuse Crisis Listening Session. We do not have the answers to those burning questions that all of us have; however, we are interested in your ideas, thoughts and feelings. We do occasionally have the ear of Bishop Braxton so who knows, one of you may have ideas or thoughts that can help bring about meaningful change that is so desperately needed.
November 18, 2018
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, give thanks for all that we have, and enjoy some time with friends and family. The Church suggests that in these days ahead of Thanksgiving we set aside some time for deeds of charity, penance, and prayer. Pray for those who are less fortunate. Some have asked if we can pray the Prayer to St. Michael after Mass. We discussed this at our worship/liturgy commission meeting and it was discussed on retreat with the Deacons of the Diocese. Even though this is a practice that some have seen elsewhere and it is a beautiful prayer, we are not going to pray it together as a community after our Masses; however, as with any private prayer, you are welcome to stay in church after Mass and privately pray the Prayer to St. Michael. It is not liturgically appropriate to pray as a community after Mass because at the end of Mass Father or I say Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord (or one of the other dismissals) and that is what we are to do, to go, to go forth and live out our Baptismal call to evangelize and spread the good news. Also, the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life (CCC 1324), to stay after the celebration of the Eucharist and pray as a congregation infers that the Eucharist in inadequate or inferior in some way, and that there is something more important that we now need to stay and do. The US Bishops met from November 12-16 to (amongst other agenda items) make important decisions in response to the abuse crisis. As you read this on November 17/18 you may well know the outcome. We will host a listening session regarding the clergy abuse in the coming weeks to listen to your concerns, feelings, ideas, etc. Keep an eye out for the announcements.
October 19, 2018
Rest assured, I have not been reassigned to another Parish, Dawn and I just haven’t been around the Parish on the weekends for several weeks. We have been traveling a lot on these beautiful Fall weekends and we will be through the end of this month. October 26 – 28 we will be on retreat with all of the Deacons and their wives from the Diocese, please keep us in your prayers that we might be renewed and refreshed in our call to serve, especially in these trying times for our Church and all those affected by sexual abuse. As you read this, on October 21, the Deacons of the Diocese will be meeting with Bishop Braxton and the sex abuse crisis will be the topic of discussion. I’ll update you on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have not seen some of the more recent actions by our Church leaders, here are some:
- Another statement was issued by Archbishop Vigano (https://www.scribd.com/document/387040553/TESTIMONY-of-His-Excellency-Carlo-Maria-Vigano-Titular-Archbishop-of-Ulpiana-Apostolic-Nuncio#from_embed and https://www.scribd.com/document/389623829/Vigano-Scio-Cui-Credidi );
- A response to Archbishop Vigano’s statements was issued by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops ( http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/cardinal-ouellet-writes-open-letter-to-archbishop-vigano );
- A response was issued by Cardinal Cupich (in Chicago, our Province) (https://www.archchicago.org/cardinal-cupich-s-statement/-/article/2018/10/08/statement-of-cardinal-blase-j-cupich-archbishop-of-chicago-on-the-open-letter-of-cardinal-marc-ouellet );
- Cardinal DiNardo, President of USCCB, has met with Pope Francis (maybe twice) and USCCB has taken some actions and issued statements (http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-161.cfm and http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-152.cfm and http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-148.cfm ); and,
- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl. (http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-164.cfm )
I won’t take the space to summarize these here but the links to all of these documents is provided in this column posted on our Parish website here http://www.ssppcc.org/from-the-deacon-s-desk so that you can read these at your leisure. PS – my letter to Bishop Braxton regarding the sex abuse crisis is also posted below in case you’d like to read that; just scroll down and you will see it.
September 30, 2018
For those of you who may have missed it, yesterday was the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels. Here's a portion of a message sent to our prayer chain, join me in praying the prayer to St. Michael often, especially with all of our current struggles …………………...
GETTING TO KNOW OUR ANGELS
The liturgy celebrates the feast of these three archangels who are venerated in the tradition of the Church. Michael (Who is like God?) was the archangel who fought against Satan and all his evil angels, defending all the friends of God. He is the protector of all humanity from the snares of the devil. Gabriel (Strength of God) announced to Zachariah the forthcoming birth of John the Baptist, and to Mary, the birth of Jesus. His greeting to the Virgin, "Hail, full of grace," is one of the most familiar and frequent prayers of the Christian people. Raphael (Medicine of God) is the archangel who took care of Tobias on his journey. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/calendar/day.cfm?date=2014-09-29
Friends in prayer, because of free will, we MUST ASK our angels to help us in time of need for them to rush to our aid. We need their protection, their guidance and strength, and their help in healing so very often!!!! We certainly could use their support for the needs of our country right now.
I LOVE this prayer of protection!!! What a perfect prayer for our PRAYER WARRIORS!!!! On this precious feast day (and every day you feel called), let us pray for each other, for our loved ones, for our country (especially as we face such trying times with the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice), and for our beloved Church (because we know why).
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,
by the Power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Thank you, God, for such Heavenly protection.
As promised in From The Deacons Desk on September 16 (see below), my letter to Bishop Braxton et. al. submitted today via email...………
September 21, 2018
Via email and First Class US Mail
Bishop Edward K. Braxton
Diocese of Belleville
222 South Third Street
Belleville, Illinois 62220
Dear Bishop Braxton:
I, like many Catholics, have been struggling with the sexual abuse crisis that, as Cardinal DiNardo put it after his meeting with Pope Francis, "... the body of Christ is lacerated by the evil of sexual abuse." So I am writing to share some of my thoughts with you in hope that you might provide some direction, guidance, and use this input in any way that you can to prevent future abuses by our ordained leaders (i.e. Deacons, Priests, Bishops, Cardinals and the Pope).
One thing we continue to hear is - pray! The diocese and the USCCB have made prayer resources available to us for that. But how do we fix the problem? Here’s a response I received from one parishioners – “Hint – it won’t be through prayer.” I agree, prayer will not fix the problem, but I have continued to tell our parishioners it won’t hurt, it will help, so don’t give up on prayer. I feel the same frustrations that other Catholics (laity and clergy). We want to do something more than pray. We want to help. I have been asking myself for the past few weeks – How? What do we do? How do we help? How do we express our concerns and our opinions? Do we wait to see what the reaction of the Church will be? I recommended to our parishioners and anyone who follows me on Twitter and Facebook, don’t be silent. Express your concerns. Share your ideas. Write to me, to Fr. Osang, to you Bishop Braxton, to Cardinal DiNardo, and to the USCCB National Review Board. If the people of God don’t tell us, we will not know. And I told them I’ll go first, I am making this letter available to them and encouraging them to write their own letters.
In one of Cardinal DiNardo’s statements, he stated that the solution would in part “… working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth.” Cardinal DiNardo’s words are encouraging but I would take it one step further and suggest not only to seek the truth, but to police and monitor the activities of the Bishops, Cardinals, and the Pope to prevent sexual abuse, and abuse of power from happening again. We must involve the laity and the survivors in the solution to prevent future abuses by our ordained leaders. And not laity and survivors handpicked by the Bishops, Cardinals and Pope, but instead laity and survivors selected by independent parties such as the USCCB National Review Board.
The framework laid out by Cardinal DiNardo in his August 16 statement also appears to be headed in the right direction; however, what progress has been made towards achieving the goals he established [(1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.]? That was over a month ago and I have not seen any tangible progress towards achieving the goals using the criteria that Cardinal DiNardo laid out in that statement (except as noted below in the September 19 statement from the Administrative Committee of the USCCB). I would add that the third goal Cardinal DiNardo established must involve the laity and the survivors selected by the people of God not selected by the Bishops or Cardinals themselves. And the third criterion identified by Cardinal DiNardo is spot on – “substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces commitment to the first criterion of independence.” This is exactly what I am hearing from our parishioners, things such as “Men in collars make the rules in the Catholic Church and until there is a change in how they operate we will be susceptible to future abuses of power. How do we as the laity get them to change?” and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” and “Still do not see any thoughtful discourse about how to avoid future abuses of power by church leadership. The old boys club needs to be broken up for future reform to occur.” Once again, I would add that this third criterion that Cardinal DiNardo established must involve the laity and the survivors selected by the people of God, not selected by the Bishops or Cardinals themselves.
It is my understanding that in the past few weeks you have met with our Diocese Presbyteral Council and the cabinet to discuss actions related to sexual abuse by clergy, and that you were also at a meeting of the Committee for the Protection of Children. From those meetings what tangible actions can we share with our parishioners that we are doing in the diocese, or at the state, or national level to involve the laity and prevent future sexual abuse by our clergy and hold our Priests, Bishops and Cardinals accountable?
I recently read these encouraging words from Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, "Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise, … This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now." What is the USCCB and the Holy See doing to hear the voices and involve the survivors to prevent future sexual abuse by our clergy and hold our Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals accountable?
And most recently, as I was preparing this letter, on September 19, the Administrative Committee of the USCCB issued a statement and took the following actions: 1. approved the establishment of a third-party reporting system that will … 2. Instructed the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance to develop proposals for policies addressing … 3. Initiated the process of developing a Code of Conduct for bishops regarding … and, 4. Supported a full investigation into the situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, including … Again all very encouraging but I would reiterate that we must Involve the laity and the survivors in the solution to prevent future abuses by our ordained leaders. And not laity and survivors hand-picked by the Bishops, Cardinals, and Pope, but instead laity and survivors selected by independent parties such as the USCCB National Review Board
How do we tell the people of God that they can get involved in the process? What do we tell our parishioners that they can do other than pray? I am willing to help in any way that I can and would like any direction that you can provide in that regard, or as well as what direction we can provide to our parishioners if they want to do something. It is frustrating when the only thing we can tell them is to pray. We need something more tangible to tell them and to guide and direct them to if they want to do something in addition to praying. How can I help and how can they help?
Rev. Mr. Thomas J. Helfrich
cc: Deacon Robert Lanter
Father Osang Idagbo, CM
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Congregation for Bishops
Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, Chair of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children
Cardinal DiNardo, President of USCCB
USCCB National Review Board
September 16, 2018
4 Sundays ago when I wrote this column, Dawn and I had just returned from the 2018 National Diaconate Congress after spending time with 2800 Deacons, spouses, etc. from around the country along with Priests, Bishops, Cardinals, and the Papal Nuncio; it was an emotional and spiritual high of sorts. As I write this, on September 11, things are drastically different in our Church from 4 weeks ago, an emotional and spiritual low of sorts, similar to how things changed for us on this day in 2001, oh my, how things can change in 4 short weeks. Here’s an excerpt from a letter by a Priest to his parish in NY – “Let us be honest, Satan loves this crisis. He rejoices when a priest sins, especially against a child. When something or someone consecrated to God is used for evil, Satan accomplishes his goal – turning souls away from Christ and His Church.” I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts and what I am hearing from the media sources I follow. The last I saw from USCCB was from Cardinal DiNardo in his statement on August 27 http://www.usccb.org/news/2018/18-143.cfm which included this - “On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth.” Involving the laity, that encouraged me, but I wondered how to we the people of God get involved in that process? In the past few weeks Bishop Braxton has met with our Diocese Presbyteral Council and the cabinet to discuss actions. He was also was at a meeting of the Committee for the Protection of Children within the past 2 weeks. From those meetings may come additional suggestions for responding to the current crisis, we shall see. Will it involve the laity? Today I saw this reported in the Catholic Reporter, https://www.catholicregister.org/home/international/item/27966-church-must-make-urgent-clear-response-to-abuse-crisis-cardinal-o-malley-says these encouraging words from Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. "Bringing the voice of survivors to leadership of the church is crucial if people are going to have an understanding of how important it is for the church to respond quickly and correctly anytime a situation of abuse may arise," "if the church is unable to respond wholeheartedly and make this a priority, all of our other activities of evangelization, works of mercy, education are all going to suffer. This must be the priority that we concentrate on right now." And finally, an article published in America Magazine – ‘Why the Catholic Church can’t move on from the sex abuse crisis’ that I found interesting because it cites, statistics, dates, numbers, etc. and it helped me put things in perspective, you might want to read it https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/09/10/why-catholic-church-cant-move-sex-abuse-crisis In the meantime, what do we continue to hear? Pray! The diocese and the USCCB have made prayer resource available to us for that. But how do we fix the problem? Here’s a response I heard to that – “Hint – it won’t be through prayer.” I agree, prayer will not fix the problem, but it won’t hurt, it will help, so don’t give up on prayer. I feel the same frustration that you do. We want to do something. We want to help. Many of you know and listen to Fr. Mike Schmitz. He gave a very emotional YouTube video on this topic https://youtu.be/AdR8eyaDCHg A great presentation, but I struggled with his closing – Are you going to leave or lead? I like many of you, won’t leave, I want to lead. But I have been asking myself for the past few weeks – How? What do we do? How do we help? How do we express our concerns and our opinions? Do we wait to see what the reaction of the Church will be? I recommend don’t be silent. Express your concerns. Share your ideas. Write to me, to Fr. Osang, to Bishop Braxton, to Archbishop Cupich, to Cardinal DiNardo, and to the USCCB National Review Board. If you don’t tell us, we will not know. And I’ll go first, I have my letter drafted and will make it available to you when I finish it this week. I encourage you to do the same. In the meantime, we wait, we pray, we hope, we don’t give up, we have faith. Let me know if I can help (939.6426 ext. 26 or [email protected] ).