These past few weeks have been extremely difficult for the Church. The Pennsylvania’s grand jury’s report about abuse and the cover-up was both sickening and very disheartening. The fall of a well-known cardinal, the cover-ups by some of the bishops, and the revelation of the number of priests and victims involved has once again created anger and a lack of trust, and rightly so, in our Church. When the scandal broke in Boston and we journeyed through that, I thought we were making some progress, as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was adopted and safe environment programs were established in our dioceses to assure that this would never happen again. Unfortunately, that is not the case as more information surfaces.
For me, it is a deeply personal matter and opened a wound that I thought was healed in my own life. I have a nephew who, when he was 14 years old was sexually abused by the pastor of his parish in Lockport, New York. His mother, my late sister-in-law, looked at me and said, “I will never trust another priest again and that includes you.” No one will ever know the pain that was caused as a sword pieced the very core of my being. What did I do to deserve such treatment? In a very small way I knew what it must have been like for Jesus when Judas, one of his hand- picked apostles betrayed him. The reality is that all priests have been seriously scarred by what a small percentage of our brother priests have done.
I will never understand how a priest could violate the sacred trust placed in him. Even more amazing is that they could do what they did and then stand before the People of God and offer up the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There, standing in the person of Christ, making a mockery of all that they were ordained to be. All this adds to the repulsive nature of their crimes. And for bishops, called to be shepherds of their flock, how could they participate in such a horrendous cover-up and think that they were being faithful to their episcopal office?
I am truly sorry that we have to go through this once again. My heart goes out to the victims and their families who, I know from personal experience, suffer greatly from all of this. Please join me in praying for their healing. And also pray for the healing of the Church, and that justice will prevail for those who abused the sacred trust placed in them by virtue of their ordination.
The Church is in need of purification and this will be accomplished through prayer, repentance, and penance. The Church will find healing as I trust in the promise of Jesus, “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
— Fr. Dennis, September 16, 2018