The Basilica has spent the last year developing a strategic plan that will guide and sustain our community into the future. We have focused on what makes The Basilica unique and how to deliberately assess our work to ensure that we are meeting the objectives of the Mission and Vision of The Basilica. The evaluation and planning professionals who assisted us in our strategic planning encouraged us to answer the question: how do you know when you’ve met your goal? We are hard at work developing a system to assess our programs and ministries, so we can continue to invest our time and resources in what is working and “bless and release” what is not. This is hard work. Our programs and ministries were created to meet a specific need at a specific time. Staff and volunteers sustain programs because they believe in the ministry’s mission and are invested in its success. It can be hard to look at organizational practices objectively when it’s what you’ve always done, but we must assess strategically and prayerfully to thrive into the future.
I believe that our Archdiocese, the wider Catholic Church in America, and the Vatican need to undergo a similar examination. Earlier this year the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had a meeting scheduled to consider a new code of conduct for bishops and the creation of a lay-led body to investigate bishops accused of misconduct (or the failure to address misconduct). Shortly before the meeting began, the Vatican instructed the group to postpone the discussion. The Vatican justified this request because they were working on a global policy that would circumvent any local or national policy. While I believe that a worldwide practice to hold bishops, cardinals, and even the Pope accountable for cover-up actions is needed, we cannot wait while the Vatican’s bureaucratic wheels slowly turn.
The USCCB’s proposed policies would remove a barrier currently being used as an excuse by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to not pursue allegations against former Archbishop Nienstedt. Current Archdiocesan leadership has declined to pursue allegations again Nienstedt because he no longer serves or resides in Minnesota. Additionally, Church leaders have refused to release the findings of an internal investigation into Nienstedt because they have no jurisdictional authority outside of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. These are old and unacceptable excuses. These are the kinds of excuses that led to years and years of abuse in the past. We need policies that protect our congregations everywhere. Many of the atrocities of the past could have been caught and ended quickly if dioceses across the country had shared information, worked together, and taken responsibility to police themselves and others.
The Basilica’s strategic planning group has also discussed how The Basilica does not operate in a vacuum. The work of The Basilica goes beyond our campus and there are other organizations who are engaging in similar work. We must learn to work in partnership or cede work to others who are better equipped. The larger Church also must do this. The Church is not a civil law enforcement agency, so when illegal activities are suspected or reported, we must work with those who are better suited than the church. The Church should also engage professionals to provide expanded professional training on the most recent research concerning abuse of priests, Church leaders, and seminarians of the Archdiocese.
Please pray for our local strategic planning committee as we continue to work towards a plan for our Basilica’s future and encourage our local and national Church leaders to put aside bureaucratic silos to build a better future for our Church.
Parish Council Chair
The Basilica of Saint Mary