“It is not enough to apologize” – Initial Response to the Scandals and Sin Rocking our Church

September 6, 2018
This week, the priests of the Diocese of Burlington and I have been together for our annual retreat. As you might know, we set aside our planned agenda to spend the time in conversation about how to address the recent scandals in our Church in a prayerful, pastoral, and systematic way. 
 
Our discussions were honest and wide ranging, but they were also just the first step of many that must be taken. Most importantly, our talks were guided by our love for you, our brothers and sisters. You, the People of God, are the Church to which we’ve committed our lives and best efforts, and we realize that anything we do as pastors must be done in consultation and deliberation with you. As Church, all of us are called to work together to heal the broken Body of Christ in our midst.

In that light, as your priests and Bishop, we commit ourselves to two initial concrete courses of action:

First, each of us is available and willing to meet with any survivor of abuse, especially if it came at the hands of clergy or religious. As your brothers in faith, we need to hear your stories, to apologize, to offer any help we can, and to listen to what you feel needs to be done to make sure, as much as humanly possible, that this never happens again. You are the ones who have been most personally impacted, and often gravely hurt, by the culture and structures of the church. You are the ones that we need to hear first to in order to change.

Secondly, each of us in our own way will take on the Gospel practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for a twofold intention: first, to manifest our shame and grief that children and vulnerable adults were sexually abused by our brother clergy, and that structures of authority allowed this to happen; and secondly, with the prayerful intention that the Catholic bishops of United States will be open to the necessary systemic changes that must take place within our Church in order to end the continuing abuse of power that has allowed for scandal and sin at its highest levels. It is not enough to apologize – if we mean what we say, we must be prepared to act, and we are. 

Finally, as ministers of Jesus seeking to imitate the Good Shepherd, we know how “actions speak louder than words” is even truer 
today than it was in the past.  May our actions and words be those of Christ, the Victim whose suffering gave us new life.  

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