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"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."

- Mark 8:34


 

A number of you asked me to write out my Homily for the 23rd Sunday of ordinary time, when Fr. Chris and I talked about the clergy sexual abuse scandal.  I wrote out the words below on the following Tuesday from my homily notes.  Fr. Jim)

 

Homily for the 23rd Sunday ordinary time, (Cure of the deaf-mute)

 

Jesus looked up to the heavens, groaned and said, “Be opened!”  When reflecting on this gospel in light of the recent revelations of clergy sexual abuse in the dioceses of Pennsylvania, I see Jesus looking at His church, ……looking up to heaven……groaning…….and saying, “Be opened!......  “Open the files!......No more secrets!......Open your ears!......No more deafness to the sounds of the pain of the victims of clergy sexual abuse!......Open your mouths and speak!.......No more silence!......Bishops, no more cover up and abuse of authority!”

 

I thought we were on the way to correcting this after the Boston scandal fifteen years ago.  But now a grand jury in Pennsylvania has identified 300 priest abusers and 1000 victims in the state over the last 70 years!  We also learned of disgusting revelations about Cardinal Ted McCarrick.  I am sure that other states attorneys will be investigating the files of dioceses in other states.  This is good!  The Catholic church needs to be transparent.  It is like an infection in the body.  The infection needs to be brought to the surface in order to be treated and healed!  Jesus challenges us today, “Be opened!”

 

Brothers and sisters, all of this stirs up strong feelings in me.  I feel deep sadness and sorrow for the victims.  They trusted that the priest was a man of God, only to have that trust betrayed.  It makes me sick!  It makes me angry!  I am angry at the perpetrators for betraying the trust and harming innocent lives!  I am angry at the Bishops for their cover-up!   I am angry at the bishops for closing their ears to the sounds of pain from the victims.  The bishops were more concerned for the reputation of the institution than for the harm done to the victims.  Many of the bishops were never in a parish.  They were theology professors, and canon lawyers, and archdiocesan bureaucrats……concerned with institutional matters, rather than pastors and good shepherds.  I am afraid this is still the case with some of them.  Maybe it’s time to come up with a better way of selecting bishops!  All of this evokes feelings of sadness, sorrow, anger, betrayal, and embarrassment!

 

But God can work through negative feelings!  There can be blessings in the negative feelings if we bring them to God!  St. John of the Cross, the great Carmelite mystic has said, “Feelings are God’s language to the soul!”  These are the blessings I’ve realized in all of this.  First of all, I’ve come to a deeper awareness of the ugliness of sin!......especially when it is the sin of those entrusted with the care of the flock.  That awareness is a blessing!  Secondly, these scandals call me back to the core of my faith.  I am not a Catholic because of any priest, bishop, cardinal, or pope!  I am Catholic because I believe in Jesus Christ who died and rose out of love for me and continues to bless me in the church, especially through the sacraments, and who promises to share His life with me for all eternity!  For me this is not the time to leave the following of Jesus.  I am reminded of his words of Peter in the gospel a few weeks ago: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life!”      


Another blessing of these difficult times in the Catholic church is the opportunity to renew my commitment to fight for the church I believe in and was envisioned in the second Vatican Council......a church I have been fighting for almost fifty years. It is an opportunity to renew my commitment to be a trustworthy leader in the Church......and to carry out my ministry as Pastor......and to serve you......in a manner worthy of your trust!  

These are dark days.  There have been dark days before.  Jesus Christ is with us and still lives and reigns!  Thanks for your support during these days. Let us continue to pray for the victims of this terrible abuse of trust and authority.  May God give them healing and some peace in all of this!

 

Fr. Jim