SEXUAL ABUSE CRISIS IN THE CHURCH

I think that most of us thought that the sexual abuse crisis in the Church was behind us.

On the one hand since the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People has been implemented since 2002, our parishes, schools and institutions have been safe environments.  Even in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report most of the cases occurred more than 30 years ago.  These years have been painful for all of us as we learned the harm that was done to the victims by clergy who abused them.  It was an heart-rending betrayal by the offending perpetrator bishops, priests and deacons of the trust placed in them by the people.  It was criminal and sinful.  There were nights when I cried after hearing survivors tell their stories.
But now on the other hand we read the revelations about Theodore McCarrick and  the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  We are angry, ashamed and shocked at what we have learned.  As bishops we fall on our knees and ask God’s mercy on us  and the leaders in the Church for the terrible mistakes that were made in response to what happened and also for the failure of those who knew and did nothing.  We must do penance by opening the doors of accountability for our actions or lack of action.  I have said many times that the Church goes on because of the faith of the people.  But now we must say more – we must call upon our laity to provide wisdom and give direction for the renewal and purification of the Church.  The Church must do what we all do individually as sinners: confess our sins, do penance and amend our lives.  Our confession must be totally honest and humble; our penance must be a new conversion to God in how we follow Christ and we must make those changes which are necessary to insure the dignity, safety and well-being of every child of God.
And now I will read the letter that Bishop Myron Cotta, our bishop, has written to us.

GRAND JURY REPORT

The Grand Jury Report in Pennsylvania is absolutely devastating to the moral conscience.  Almost all these horrendous cases in the Report took place more than 30 years ago.  The Church in the US began addressing this  moral crisis in the 1990’s and implemented the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002.  The Charter has been effective.  However, the Grand Jury Report gives rise to serious concerns about the accountability of Church leaders and the matter of vigilance by those who knew.  But it also  gives rise to questions about due process rights of those who claim they are falsely accused.   It can be difficult to get to the truth.  Not only the Church, but all segments and organizations in society need to be held to the same standards of public accountability.

ONE OF THE HOTTEST YEARS

2018 looks to be one of the hottest years in recorded history.  When we observe the devastation of the wildfires, the tragedy of burned homes and lost lives,  are not our consciences stirred to make the changes necessary to combat the human causes which produce or aggravate climate warming.  cf. Laudato Si # 23.

Pope Francis has said it well: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods.”. Laudato Si # 25
To weaken environmental regulations is to be morally irresponsible.  To ignore or refuse to face global warming contributes to the destruction of the earth and to the degradation of the human family. Our moral tradition recognizes what we call sins of omission.
Let us remain determined and not give up hope that we can make a difference by our own behavior, by working together and by supporting the mobilization of all nations to preserve and protect our home on this earth for future generations.
We honor, reverence and respect all creation which has been entrusted to us by God the Creator of the universe.

FOOD FOR ETERNAL LIFE

HOMILY  18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Different folks look to religion for different reasons.
Some take to religion because it makes them feel good.  Nothing wrong with this, but there is something more.
Some look to religion for prosperity (the prosperity gospel) looking for a hundred fold return in this life.  Not quite on target.  There is definitely something more.
Some seek religion as an escape from this world  into the spirituality of another world.  There is definitely something more right here and now.
In John’s gospel the people sought after Jesus because he fed them.
But Jesus offered them something more. “Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.”
Jesus, the bread of life, first of all nourishes us not to make us feel good but so that we will do good.  The something more is the great satisfaction that comes our way when Jesus feeds our hunger for meaning and purpose in this life and in the life to come.  There is a good feeling when one does good.
Secondly, Jesus, the bread of life, calls us blessed, not because we are filled with an abundance of this world’s goods, but because we have shared our abundance or what little we have with others.  God loves a cheerful giver.
Thirdly, the spiritual food we are given is given to us in this world in our bodies.  Christianity is a bodily religion.  The Word became flesh.  We believe in the resurrection of the body.  What makes Christianity a spiritual way of life is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our real lives , in our bodies, in this world.  The gospel is not an escape from this world but a transformation of this world into Christ.  Even cloistered monks and nuns work and pray for the the transformation of the world in Christ.
Jesus said:  “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”
Jesus is the “something more,” the Bread of Life.  No matter what,  our lives and hearts can be centered in Jesus.  It matters not if we don’t feel good; it matters not if we are not prosperous; it matters not if we want to run away from it all.  It matters not,  because our faith in Christ is everything.  Jesus is  our food for eternal life.

DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSON

How does one sort through all that is happening in our society at this time? Where is truth?  Where is consistency?  Where is good order?  I believe that there is one foundational principle that guides our analysis of every word spoken and every action taken?  In every situation we must ask if the words and the deeds bear witness to the dignity of the human person.  Do they honor the person as a creature of God?  Do they promote the dignity and equality of every human being as equal in value, characterized and distinguished as made in the image of God? Do we hear words and see actions that promote the integral human development of every individual who is created to find fulfillment as part and parcel of the human family?  We fail our humanity if we behave as automatons who simply respond in agreement or disagreement without careful and thoughtful reflection.  From the perspective of biblical justice we can ask whether or not the words and actions build right relationships with God, with our neighbor, with ourselves in conscience, and with the earth on which we live.  The dignity of the human person rests at the heart of individual and social well-being.  Who is responsible for promoting the dignity, worth and value of the human person?  Every element of society has a duty, in fact is indebted, to participate:  faith organizations (church, synagogue, mosque etc), the State (government), business, community organizations, the family, and individuals themselves.

O Lord, God, you have made every human person little less than a god, crowned with glory and honor. (Based on Psalm 8)

REVERENCE AND SINCERITY

St. Paul in writing to the Corinthians (2nd Letter) tells them to treat everyone “with reverence and sincerity,” which comes from God.  It is very easy to become hypocritical when invoking the name of God when one does not follow through with good deeds.

To treat everyone with reverence means to show them profound honor and respect.  Since when are politicians or presidents or anyone else excused from this command of God?  What authority does one have to name call or demean others?

To treat others with sincerity means to be honest and genuine.  Sincerity is the quality of being free from pretense, deceit or hypocrisy.  Sincerity requires the utmost in being truthful and candid.
Reverence and sincerity require each other.  It’s a ‘both-and.’ Reverence without sincerity can become pandering.  Sincerity without reverence can become harsh. Leaders in any and all professions and occupations, members of a family, everyone in the common social exchanges of daily life, all are challenged to treat all “with reverence and sincerity.”  These virtues come from God.

GOVERNMENT SOCIAL SERVICES

I am concerned about Catholics who want to cut back on government social services for the poor rather than to improve and expand them -access to health care very much included. I would like to remind those who think in this direction that the number one criteria for judging the morality of the nation lies in how we care for the poor and vulnerable.

Listen to the words of Jeremiah the prophet: “Do what is right and just.  Rescue the victim from the hand of his oppressor.  Do not wrong or oppress the resident alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood.” Jer.22:3
 Christ fulfilled the words of the prophet with his new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Jn.13:34
These words are not just for a select group of Christians but for all the followers of Christ, those who identify as Christians.   The words of Jeremiah, however, are broader and hold for all people who want to live rightly.
The words of Jeremiah apply to whatever aspect of life and work we consider.  In particular, I would like to direct the prophet’s words at this time to our political leaders. Those in government positions of authority who do not do what is right for the immigrant and the poor in this country abuse their responsibility.
In a special way, I would remind my brothers and sisters in Christ, that those who weaken care for the poor, including the immigrant, will face judgment on the last day.
“Love one another as I have loved you.”  This is the highest calling of the Christian in following and imitating Christ.
Doing what is right and just is incumbent upon all.