Statement January 26-27, 2019

Fr. Norman's Statement for Masses
January 26-27
Preparation for Release of Report on Credibly Accused Clergy of Sexual Abuse

I trust you remember that I delivered a painful homily on the weekend of August 24-25 last year at all Masses about the clergy sexual abuse crisis resulting from the Pennyslvania District Attorney study and report. Since then much has been happening in the Church regarding this matter. Today we come to another critical moment in the Church’s leadership addressing this matter, taking responsible action and trying to find solutions for it.  And, so, here I am again as your pastor addressing this painful matter.

This issue makes all of us terribly ill at ease, and rightly so. As pastor, my philosophy in addressing it is that, using the image of an infected wound, you must lance it to release all the puss and pressure for the healing to begin. That means pastors must publically address this deep wound, disease, sin, crime and tragedy which is clergy sexual abuse. Unless we expose this reality, admit it and discuss it openly to gain knowledge, we cannot alleviate it, heal from it and chart a new course for the future.  

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller has asked that all pastors notify parishioners in their weekend bulletins of the following news release which I now quote from the Archbishop: “On January 31st, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller will share a report of child sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of San Antonio with the people of our parishes. With this report, the Archdiocese of San Antonio will present a transparent account of clergy sexual abuse of children in our local church from 1940 to the present. Archbishop Gustavo, with this report, will express regret and apologies for the failings and sins that have hurt the Church so deeply, especially in our most vulnerable members. He will especially ask forgiveness for the failings of those who have held positions of leadershiop in the Church. After much prayerful discernment, and bearing consciously the burden of anger and shame accumulated over the last 75 years, the Archdiocese makes this report praying that those who are suffering will be able to hear this as a sincere apology. After 2:00 pm on January 31st, the report will be immediately available on the webpage of the Archdiocese at: archsa.org.” (end quote)

The Archbishop’s release of these names is his attempt to be transparent, proactive and accountable about this matter. It is an essential step, I believe, in the process of addressing this issue in a healthy, honest way and finding solutions, healing and transformation. Some see this whole tragedy as an intrusion to Church life, but it is---in this time and history---the focus and work of ministry in our Church today to grow in holiness and to purify and cleanse the Church.

With the Pennsylvania report there was a distance and buffer between it and ourselves. We heard the numbers of children and teens who had been abused. It continues to be shocking and scandalous. But 99.5% of us who read details of the Pennsylvania report, including names of the priests accused and others found guilty and serving sentences, did not know these men personally. Now, with the Archbishop revealing the names of priests in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, there is no distance and buffer.  There is a much greater possibility of us knowing at least one or more of these men personally. That will add a whole new level of intensity to this terrible issue and a deeper effect of shock and scandal for us. 

My intention with these comments is to prepare you for the publication and release of the names of those priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse. Here are suggestions for how to review and integrate the information to be released this Thursday:

  • Let us keep our focus on those victimized and traumatized by clergy sexual abuse, for their healing and strength. That we walk compassionately with them in their pain and struggles, and pray daily for them.
  • Let us all be mature adult Christians knowing that the Church has been through previous scandals in our 2,000+ year history and that God has helped the Church be purified and cleansed in the process. God is here to help us in this scandal which requires a coming to terms with, purging and cleansing.
  • Remember that Jesus Christ and his Church are holy despite what any individual does, including priests and church leadership, that stains it and brings scandal upon it. In this matter we see the extremes of human weakness manifested in this disease, sin and crime of child sexual abuse being perpetrated by some priests, an incomprehensible thing. 
  • Let us keep our focus, vision and daily efforts on the mission of the Catholic Church. Let us continue to be light and hope to the world, living and radiating the person of Christ and enfleshing his Gospel. Let us guard, defend and teach the treasures of the Catholic Church’s faith, traditions and moral and ethical teachings.
  • Be aware that evil is always at work in the world and that we must all be mindful of it and remain spiritually strong in defense against every manifestation of wickedness and snares of evil. Let us not allow our souls to be defiled, ruined and lost. Be ready to challenge any form of sin and evil you see taking root in yourselves, in others or in the Church itself. 
  • Let us temper and discipline our emotional response to the release of these names and remain very thoughtful, reflective and analytical to be a part of the solution. As members of the church you each have a critical role to play in church life.  Laity, priests and Church leadership must hold each other mutually accountable.
  • Let us all submit ourselves to God’s compassion, love, mercy, forgiveness and do acts of penitence and other spiritual exercises.
  • Continue to inform yourselves about the issue of child sexual abuse and its existence at all levels of society throughout the world. Let us do everything in our power to keep our parishes as safe environments where all children and other vulnerable individuals are honored and respected and can grow in faith and Christian virtue.
  • Let us pray fervently for Pope Frances and all the bishops of the world who will be meeting in Rome soon regarding this matter, that the Holy Spirit move within them to help them be in one accord in addressing this issue and agree to a path of action to eradicate it from the Church.
  • Let us be assured that God’s justice will prevail and be the critical matter for each of the priests who have so horribly defiled their priestly commitments as shepherds of Christ and the Church. We pray for their souls. 

Next weekend at all Masses the Archbishop has asked that all priests address the publication of these names and its implications for the Church in their homilies. He and Auxiliary Bishop Michael Boulette have provided helpful information for those homilies, but each priest is asked to make the homily their own. Thank you for your kind attention to this critical matter in the Church today.