You are here
Archives: December 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Many of you have reminded me that our Church needs to face today’s challenges with more direct action. Changes must be made that will prevent regression to old ways. I am taking additional steps in this Archdiocese to change the culture that fostered the clergy abuse crisis.
A new position has been created in the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment to ensure that the voice of survivors of clergy sexual abuse will be regularly heard within Archdiocesan leadership. To strengthen that voice, I want to say again today that any survivor who at any time entered into a settlement agreement containing a confidentiality provision is released from that provision. I also reiterate my pledge to meet with any survivors who would like to do so. I am leaving open all Friday afternoons in February, March and April for that purpose. Meetings at other times and places will still be available as well. Planning for spiritual outreach in 2019 is also underway. It will include opportunities, both at the parish and Archdiocesan levels, for reparation, spiritual renewal, and prayers for healing.
I also want to share a few thoughts regarding bishop accountability. This was a major topic at the recent meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As mentioned before, I strongly favor the creation of a lay-led mechanism for investigating and assessing any allegations made against me or any other bishop. It is clear to me that expanding meaningful lay involvement is essential for us to accomplish cultural change and put in place a credible and lasting process. In order to fully address bishop accountability, the Church needs a national or regional board empowered to act, much as our well-respected Ministerial Review Board has been empowered to address allegations involving our priests and deacons. The Church cannot fulfill its mission without public trust.
I remain troubled by the failure to bring closure to the 2014 investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct with adult males leveled against my predecessor, Archbishop John Nienstedt. You will recall that Archbishop Nienstedt had delegated the investigation to his senior auxiliary bishop, who in turn sought the assistance of two separate law firms. In 2015, the investigative materials were submitted to the then-Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Also in 2015, the investigation’s underlying allegations were provided by the Archdiocese to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. As far as I know, any effort by the Vatican to further address the allegations was suspended in June 2015 when Archbishop Nienstedt resigned his office. Thus, the matter remains unresolved for the accusers, for Archbishop Nienstedt and for the public. I share the frustration that is felt by them, and believe this situation highlights the need for a better-defined process and independent mechanism to resolve allegations made against bishops.
I am also aware that resolution of the 2014 investigation would, in itself, no longer fully address the question of Archbishop Nienstedt’s status. After the Archbishop had already resigned and left Minnesota, a separate allegation emerged. In 2016, Ramsey County shared with us and made public an allegation it received that in 2005, then-Bishop of New Ulm Nienstedt, while at a World Youth Day event in Germany, had invited two unaccompanied minors to his hotel room to get out of the rain and wet clothing. It is alleged that he then proceeded to undress in front of them and invited them to do the same. Archbishop Nienstedt denies this ever happened. My opinion is this allegation needs to be fully addressed before a definitive resolution of Archbishop Nienstedt’s suitability for ministry can be made. For that reason, I transmitted Ramsey County’s documentation concerning this allegation to the Nuncio in 2016.
I have been asked repeatedly whether there are any restrictions on Archbishop Nienstedt’s ministry. My answer has always been that although I do not know of any, I am the wrong person to ask: Bishops report to the Holy Father, not to each other. I have no general juridical authority over Archbishop Nienstedt or any other bishop outside the Archdiocese.
I can, however, exercise some control over the types of public ministry permitted in this Archdiocese. With all of this in mind, and in the hope of advancing a resolution to this matter, I am taking the following steps:
- The Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board has recently recommended that I publicly clarify that Archbishop Nienstedt, like any priest facing similar allegations, would not be free to exercise public ministry in this Archdiocese until all open allegations are resolved. I concur. As is true in similar cases involving our priests and deacons, this is not intended to convey an indication or presumption of guilt. While this may cause some pain, my hope is that this decision prompts further action by those with authority over Archbishop Nienstedt to resolve this question.
- Further, I will continue in the near term to advocate for the creation of an independent review board. In this way, my hope is that resolution of the allegations and any additional investigation can be handled in a way that is fair to all and worthy of public trust.
- Finally, I am publicly committing to transmit the entire 2014 Archdiocesan investigation to whatever national or regional review board is created.
I share the disappointment of many that more progress has not been made at the national and international levels to address bishop accountability. It is my prayer and hope that the February meeting Pope Francis is convening with bishops from around the world produces tangible results. We need a review board at the national or regional level - similar to our local Ministerial Review Board - with the authority and credibility to address allegations of misconduct against bishops and make fitness-for-ministry recommendations to the Holy Father.
As we continue our preparations this Advent for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ, I ask you to join me in praying for peace and healing for the men and women who have been abused, along with their families, friends, and communities. These are our brothers and sisters who deserve our prayers, love, and support more than ever.
With every good wish, I remain,
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Download the letter in PDF format.
The Basilica of Saint Mary plans to welcome over 10,000 visitors during Christmas Eve, December 24 and Christmas Day, December 25. The historic Church will be beautifully decorated by volunteers with 30 foot evergreen trees and poinsettias.
Plan to celebrate this joyous time of year at The Basilica of Saint Mary. The music, liturgy, and community create a special Christmas experience for all who pass through our doors.
Monday, December 24
3:00pm Vigil Eucharist organ, cantor, Cathedral Choristers, Children’s Choir and Cherubs, oboe*
5:30pm Vigil Eucharist Mundus & Juventus
Celebrant: Archbishop Bernard Heba
8:00pm Vigil Eucharist piano, cantor, flute, cello
ASL Interpreted beginning with Choral Music at 11:00PM
10:30pm Prelude Music for Christmas harp
11:00pm Meditation Music Cathedral Choir, organ, harp, flute
11:30pm Vigil of Lights organ, Cathedral Choir
Midnight Solemn Eucharist organ, Cathedral Choir, brass, harp
Tuesday, December 25
7:30am Eucharist at Dawn organ, cantor, violin
9:30am Solemn Eucharist organ, choir, brass, strings,
Noon Solemn Eucharist organ, choir, brass, strings
4:30pm Festive Eucharist music from around the world
*The Archbishop has given permission to celebrate the Vigil Masses starting at 3:00pm.
My early years in Minneapolis were not always easy as I greatly missed my family and friends in Belgium. Christmas time was particularly difficult. So, I was very glad to host my late parents in December of 1996. They had never experienced the amount of cold and snow we get in Minnesota. We actually had to get them some appropriate coats and hats and mittens. Surprisingly, they took to it and showed me to find joy in every season, even in winter. They returned every year for a visit until my father’s death in 2002, albeit never again in the winter. My dear friend, the late Fr. André Laurier, S.M.M., spent Christmas 1998 with me. He too liked it here, no matter the season and returned many times. That Christmas André taught me a lesson which I treasure to this day.
André arrived the Friday before Christmas. On Saturday, we spent the day decorating the Christmas tree in my house. It was a lovely robust and fragrant blue spruce. Carefully unpacking each ornament, I told its story. Many stories resonated with André because he knew the Belgian people and places I was talking about. When we were all finished we went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. From the kitchen, a terrific noise called us back to the living room where we found the tree on the floor surrounded by shattered glass. André quietly cleaned up, carefully gathering the ornaments that had survived and collecting the pieces of those that shattered. Heartbroken, I needed to excuse myself. When I finally emerged from my room-and my sour mood—I found the tree back in place, the surviving ornaments ready to be hung, and the table set. We had a quiet dinner together and talked of all things Belgian.
The next day, when I returned home from Sunday liturgies, I found the tree decorated with the surviving ornaments and some new ornaments ready to be hung. Cleverly, André had bought some clear glass ornaments which he filled with the remnants of the broken ornaments.
Later that day, as we sat down to admire the tree, André noted that the many memories had proven too much for the tree and that maybe it was time to let go of some old memories in order to make room for new ones. “It is not that you have to let go completely” he said, “you can hold on to bits and pieces, but you need to make room for more.” And so I did!
My Christmas tree today is adorned with many ornaments. Some of the ornaments are old, reminding me of Belgium, but many of them are new, bearing the memories of my travels, my friends, and my Basilica life. And, still to this day, I treasure the clear glass ornaments filled with bits and pieces of old and treasured memories. Had it not been for André, who has since died, I wouldn’t have learned this great lesson of embracing and letting go; of seeing in the broken, the beauty of the future.
And though I still miss my Belgian family and friends at Christmas, I have totally embraced my new family and friends here in Minneapolis. I am so grateful for all of you, especially this Advent Season.
May you and your loved ones rejoice in the many blessings this season brings.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121618.cfm
What do you think I should do? I would guess all of us have asked this question at some point in our lives. This was the question the crowds, the tax collectors and the soldiers asked John the Baptist in the first part of this weekend’s Gospel. In his response John didn’t propose that any of these individuals do anything difficult or unusual. Rather, he told them to do those things they already knew they should be doing. And so it is with us. As followers of Jesus we are not asked us to do anything extraordinary. Rather we are called to live in common care and concern with each other, and to be the face and hands of Christ to those we meet.
In the second part of this weekend’s Gospel we are told that the “people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” John had a clear sense of his mission and role, however, so he was able to tell the people: “one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.”
Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Zephaniah. In it, Zephaniah reassures the people of Judah that if they remain faithful to God, they will have no reason to fear. “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”
In the second reading this weekend from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, Paul reminds the people of Philippe that: “The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- In our Gospel for this weekend, various groups asked John the Baptist what they should do. If you were to ask John this question, what do you think he would tell you to do?
- John the Baptist was clear about his role and mission in life. What do you think your mission in life is?
- In the first reading this weekend, Zephaniah told the people the Lord was in their midst. Paul told the Philippians that the Lord was near. Where do you find God close to you in your life?
Archbishop Hebda invites young adults (ages 18-39) of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to join him for listening sessions regarding the abuse crises in the Church.
Archbishop Hebda will respond to the open letter young adults of the archdiocese sent him this fall, and listen to their ideas for creating and maintaining safe environments, healing the Church, and moving forward together.
- Monday, December 10, 7 – 9 p.m. Archdiocesan Catholic Center (Saint Joseph Hall), Saint Paul.
- Wednesday, December 19, 7 – 9 p.m. Basilica of Saint Mary (Teresa of Calcutta Hall), Minneapolis.
I once heard someone say, “You have to die a little each day so that when death comes, you are ready.” This perturbed me a bit when I heard it. Do I do this each day? Do I give in to my selfish desires or choose to put what I want aside instead? Am I willing to place my trust in the unknown, knowing that the worst might happen? Can I be the one who stands up for someone who is being marginalized, even though I will be rejected? Am I filled with fear when I realize I am not in control of my life? Do I always have to have the last word to show someone else I have power over them? Can I put aside my opinions and ideas to allow someone else to share theirs even though they are different than mine? Do I have to respond in anger when someone says something I don’t agree with? Am I transparent in all my relationships or do I just let others see what I want them to see? Am I always honest, really honest, with myself and everyone in my life?
During this season of Advent, it might be a good time to think about dying, even though we are preparing to celebrate a birth. In order for something or Someone to be born in us, we have to make room in the inn of our hearts. That means letting go, releasing, surrendering, relinquishing, giving in, submitting, renouncing, conceding.
It isn’t easy. In fact, it is probably the most difficult thing to do and that’s because of our strong egos. We resist the right thing to do. We are afraid to be different. We are afraid to go against the tide. We want to be liked by others around us. We take pride in our many accomplishments that we think set us above those around us.
But here we are in Advent. The season of waiting. Waiting for what? I don’t like waiting. Maybe you don’t either. But there are so many things in life we have to wait for, i.e. for the light to turn green; for a test result; for your birthday; for tomorrow to come, etc., etc. We are asked to wait during Advent. We are asked to be patient in our waiting and to be watchful because we know not the day nor the hour. We are asked to stay awake and to be on guard. So we wait. We wait in anticipation and joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, into our very broken world. We need Jesus to come. This is what we wait for in Advent. Let us hope we are truly ready for his coming.
For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
This weekend we celebrate the second Sunday of the season of Advent. Each year as we begin the season of Advent we also begin a new liturgical year; and each liturgical year we read a different Gospel. This year is year C, (We are on a three year cycle of readings.), so we read from the Gospel of Luke. (In year A we read from the Gospel of Matthew. In year B we read from the Gospel of Mark. We read from the Gospel of John primarily during the Easter Season, although sections of it are also used in year B to supplement Mark, which is the shortest Gospel.)
The season of Advent has a threefold character. It is a time for us to remember Christ’s first coming as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. Also, though, it is a time for us to prepare our minds and hearts as we await Christ’s second coming at the end of the world. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it calls us to be ready to meet Christ as he comes (in a variety of forms) into each of our daily lives.
Two important figures during Advent are John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. John heralded Jesus’ coming, and Mary models what it means for us to recognize and respond to Christ.
The words most often associated with the season of Advent are: waiting, anticipation, preparation, longing, expectation, joyful, and hopeful. The joyful expectation of Advent distinguishes it from the penitential character of Lent.
In our Gospel for this weekend, Luke introduces John the Baptist. He situates John’s proclamation within a precise historical context: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar………….” At first this might seem odd, but when you stop and think about it don’t we do the same thing, when we try to locate an event in our lives, e.g. I know we lived on Elm Street and Bush was president when …………..” Clearly Luke sees John’s proclamation “Prepare the way of the Lord…….” as having world wide importance.
Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of the Prophet Baruch. We don’t often read from Baruch, who was reported to be the secretary to the Prophet Jeremiah. This book was written after the fall of Jerusalem and was meant to give encouragement to the people in exile. “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery, put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”
Our second reading this weekend is from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In it Paul writes from prison to the Philippians to encourage them that “your love my increase more and more….”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- While I try to set aside some extra time for prayer during Advent, I don’t have a lot of other ideas about how to prepare the way of the Lord. Any suggestions?
- Baruch’s message was one on optimism and hope that ultimately the Lord would restore Jerusalem. What words would you use to convey this kind of message to someone who was experiencing a time of trial or uncertainty?
- Do you have any special activities planned for Advent, or any special memories of Advents, past?