Dear Fellow Parishioners:
I am writing this to summarize and bring you up-to-date on our parish’s response to the horrible clergy sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. Catholic Church. It has been going on now since at least 2002, and there seems to be no end in sight. Some are justly upset and angry over the ongoing revelations, and some are worn out, having lived with this for close to 16 years. It has been a long time and looks to be around a lot longer.
How do we at St. Austin respond to this crisis? Our Parish Pasto-ral Council has discussed this briefly at their retreat on September 8 and more fully at our recent PPC meeting on October 2. While we cannot change the structure of the Catholic Church, we do have ways that we can seek healing and promote justice. To list several of them, I wrote a letter to the parish that appeared online and in the bulletin. You can find it at www.staustin.org under NEWS at the bottom of the page. On the weekend of September 16, I issued a statement of concern about a Paulist priest that was stationed here in the past and personally announced that at each Mass. You can also find the statement on our website under NEWS. And we will continue to strive to be as open and forth-coming as we can be (respecting the rights of others) if we be-come aware of other situations.
We already had scheduled Fr. Steven Bell for a parish mission here on October 22-24. We subsequently asked him to emphasize healing and hope in his mission to help respond to this awful situ-ation. I hope you will be able to join us.
We joined with the University Catholic Center in the Bishop’s call to participate in a Mass of Reparation on Tues., Oct. 9. We thought it better for us to join together in solidarity, rather than duplicate smaller Masses. Some questioned the purpose of this, and many Catholics don’t fully understand the difference between penance (for doing something you did wrong) and reparation (an attempt to heal a wound caused by others). It is a spiritual solu-tion, which is necessary, but does not replace the need to remove from ministry anyone credibly accused of a crime like this, nor other appropriate actions to protect vulnerable adults and chil-dren.
We continue to encourage all parishioners to become EIM (Ethics and Integrity in Ministry) certified, while we REQUIRE all min-isters in the parish, both paid and volunteers, to do so. This pro-gram gives me the most hope for moving forward in a positive way, certainly in the Church, but also in society at large. We all need to know the signs of abuse and know how and to whom we should report our suspicions.
On October 2, at the Priest’s Convocation for the Diocese, we heard a very good presentation by an expert on the topic of sexual abuse. She gave the priests a context and framework to look at this by providing a historical overview and understanding of the developing approach to this problem and some context on its prevalence. We are scheduling the same presentation here for the benefit of our parishioners, after Fr. Steven Bell’s Mission. I will keep you posted on the date and time.
And of course, we continue to pray.