News

The Basilica of Saint Mary will show the film Summer in the Forest, Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 3:00pm. This highly acclaimed, documentary tells the story of L’Arche, an international federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1964, today it operates in 147 communities in 35 countries, on 5 continents.


This screening is presented by the Disability Awareness Ministry as part of the Basilica’s Disability Awareness month in October. The Disability Awareness Ministry's mission is to remove barriers that prevent the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities and their families in parish life and in the community at large. The Basilica continually strives to make the church and campus facilities accessible to all parishioners and visitors.

 

Summer in the Forest Film

Summer in the Forest 
Basilica of Saint Mary
October 27, 2018 at 3:00pm 
Doors open at 2:30pm 
Free of charge

2017 (NR) 108 min.
French with English subtitles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We begin this month of remembrance with solemn Evening Prayer for all our beloved dead. The names of all those who have died within the last year will be mentioned during the Litany of the Saints. All other names of the faithful departed will be listed in the worship leaflet. If you wish to include names of the faithful departed, please submit names online at mary.org/allsouls or call Wendy at 612.317.3474 by end of day October 25. 

Evening Prayer for All Souls Sunday, November 4, at 3:00pm. 

 

October is Disability Awareness Month at The Basilica

The Disability Awareness Ministry's mission is to remove barriers that prevent the full inclusion of individuals with disabilities and their families in parish life and in the community at large. The Basilica continually strives to make the church and campus facilities accessible to all parishioners and visitors. Join us as we continue to look at ways to eliminate barriers to participation at The Basilica.
 

Taizé Prayer with Individual Confessions
Saint Joseph Chapel, Ground Level
Tuesday, October 9, 5:30pm
A service of mantra-like singing following communal prayer focused on reconciliation and healing. Braille Leaflet, wheelchair seating, lighting for those with visual impairment are just a few of the ways we are making this prayer service more accessible to all.
 
Disability Awareness Ministry Fair
Sunday, October 14, Following 9:30 and 11:30am Masses
Come down to Teresa of Calcutta Hall for special treats and resource tables featuring organizations with information on breaking down the barriers to participation on many levels. If you have an organization you would like to participate, or for more information, contact Janet.

Documentary Film: Summer in the Forest 
Saturday, October 27, 3:00pm, Teresa of Calcutta Hall, Ground Level
This highly acclaimed, recently released documentary tells the story of L’Arche, an international federation dedicated to the creation and growth of homes, programs, and support networks with people who have intellectual disabilities. It was founded in 1964, and is operating today in 147 communities in 35 countries, on 5 continents. Doors open at 2:30pm and special treats will be available. 
 
Book Club: The Road to Daybreak
Before coming to see Summer in the Forest, we invite you to join us in reading The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen. This book documents the author’s spiritual journey that took him to the L’Arche community in Trosly, France and the impact it made on him for the remainder of his life. If you would like to purchase a copy, please contact Janet.

 
For more information, contact Janet.

Syrian Archbishop to Speak at the University of St. Thomas
Archbishop of Damascus Samir Nassar will discuss from his eyewitness perspective the impact of Syria’s civil war on both the Church and society in that country.
 
St. Paul/Minneapolis - His Excellency, the Most Reverend Samir Nassar, Archbishop of Damascus since 2006, has witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by the civil war raging in Syria since 2011. No sector of society has escaped unharmed, including the Church. Families, children, and especially young people, whose future livelihood within Syria has become precarious, have suffered the most.  Over two separate events on Thursday, November 15, Archbishop Nassar will share his experiences helping his church communities survive and constructively respond to the barbarities and deprivations of war. Both events are free and open to the public.
 
The first event is an informal discussion with Archbishop Nassar, entitled “Enveloped by War: The Church in Syria’s Civil Conflict.” It will be held in the auditorium of the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the St. Paul Campus from 11:45AM to 1:15PM. Archbishop Nassar will share stories, and invite questions, about how the war has affected churches in his Archdiocese, and throughout Syria, and how both he and those churches have responded to the almost complete breakdown of civil society.
 
The second event will be a panel discussion and public dialogue on how the Church in Syria might contribute to the rebuilding of Syrian civil society.  “Binding Wounds, Building Bridges in a War-Ravaged Land: An Evening with The Most Reverend Samir Nassar, Archbishop of Damascus,” will take place at 7:30PM in Schulze Hall on the Minneapolis campus of the University of St. Thomas. This event will include many members of the wider Twin Cities community. 
 
The primary sponsor for both events is The Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas, with assistance provided by the University of St. Thomas’ Office for Mission, the Departments of Theology, History, Justice and Peace Studies, and Catholic Studies. Archbishop Nassar’s visit to the Twin Cities is being sponsored by a number of different national and local agencies and organizations: Catholic Relief Services, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, the Center for Mission, St. Maron’s Maronite Catholic Church, and the Basilica of St. Mary.
 
For more information, press only:
Paul J. Wojda, Ph.D.
651-962-5385
pjwojda@stthomas.edu
 
Evening Ecumenical/Inter-faith Prayer Service
Wednesday, November 14
St. Maron's Church 
600 University Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413
Come together to pray for peace and for refugees. 
 
Binding Wounds, Building Bridges in a War-Ravaged Land:
An Evening with The Most Reverend Samir Nassar, Archbishop of Damascus, Syria
Discussion about how the Church in Syria might contribute to the rebuilding of Syrian civil society.
Thursday, November 15
7:30pm 
Schultze Hall, University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis campus
Open to the public
 
The University of St. Thomas is honored to host Archbishop Nassar
Sponsored by the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship
 
 
 
More about Archbishop Nassar:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

From the Pastor  

With this column I would like to update you in regard to several areas of our parish’s life.

1. Our End of Year Review and Our Operating Budget for the Next Fiscal Year: A four page summary of our Year in Review report is included in this bulletin. The full report is available online. In an earlier bulletin I had mentioned that while we were running a little behind in our budgeted revenue for the past fiscal year, we were also slightly under budget in regard to our expenses. We ended the fiscal year with a small deficit, which was covered by using a portion of the school rental income. The remainder of the school rental income was transferred to our cash reserve. 

I am grateful to our staff for the terrific job they did in reducing and controlling expenses. I am also grateful, though, for the ongoing financial support of you, our parishioners. Your generosity is a blessing for our parish. 

As mentioned above, the full copy of our year review is available online at mary.org. You can also call our Development Office if you would like to receive a printed copy. 

Finally, because of your generosity, in our budgeting for next year—we are anticipating a small increase in our revenue. This is good news and a testament to your care for and commitment to our parish community. As your pastor, I want you to know of my gratitude for your ongoing generosity. Please know it is greatly appreciated. 

2. 150th Anniversary of our Parish: This year our parish celebrates its Sesquicentennial. 150 years ago the Church of the Immaculate Conception was founded in Minneapolis. The first Mass was celebrated on October 4, 1868. (When the parish outgrew its original site, seven lots were donated at 16th and Hennepin Ave in 1904. The cornerstone of The Basilica, which was initially known as the Pro-Cathedral, was laid in 1908, and the first Mass was celebrated in The Basilica on May 31, 1914.) 

We will kick-off a year long celebration of our 150th anniversary on Sunday, September 30. Archbishop Hebda will preside at the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses that day. Throughout the coming year there will be a variety of events, activities, and exhibits to celebrate our Sesquicentennial as a parish. I invite you to attend as many of these as you are able as we celebrate 150 years of faith. 

3. Maintenance Projects at The Basilica: As I mentioned in an earlier bulletin, we tackled several maintenance projects on our campus this summer. As I hope you noticed from the scaffolding, we tuck-pointed the stone under the dome. As I write this column we are in the process of upgrading the kitchen in the lower level; we will also be doing some upgrades to the church sound system; seal coating and re-striping the parking lots; and replacing the florescent lights in the lower level of the Church with LED lighting. We will also be replacing the lighting on the interior ring of lights in the dome with LED lighting. This was the fund-a-need project at this year’s Basilica Landmark Ball. We also hope to reconstruct the South entrance to our school building sometime next spring.

We are hopeful that there will be minimal disruption with these projects. We are grateful that most of these projects will be funded by The Basilica Landmark. 

4. Special Collections: While no one is fond of special collections, it is heartening for me to report that the people of The Basilica have been very generous to the last few special collections here.

On the weekend of June 17 and 18, $7,400 was contributed to help defray the cost of air conditioning The Basilica during the hot summer months. 
On the weekend of July 28 and 29, $10,835 was contributed to help fund our St. Vincent de Paul Ministry. 

The contributions to these collections testify to the generosity of the people of The Basilica. Please know of my gratitude for your generous response to these collections. 

5. Financial Stewardship: During the months of October and November we celebrate Financial Stewardship. During this time we ask all parishioners to make a pledge of financial support for our parish. While I am very much aware of the many requests we all receive for financial support, I am hopeful, though, that The Basilica will be near the top of your list in terms of your financial support. It is your ongoing, regular financial support that makes it possible for us to offer the many programs, services, and ministries that are at the heart of our Basilica parish. 

6. Archdiocesan Bankruptcy: As I hope you are aware, earlier this summer an agreement had been reached to resolve the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese. The agreement establishes a trust fund of approximately $210 million for the victims/survivors. Some of the money for the settlement fund came in the form of voluntary pledges of financial support from parishes and priests of our Archdiocese. I believe this is a wonderful statement of our compassion and support for our brothers and sisters who were seriously wounded and hurt by my brother priests and by others in our church. 

In a letter to all parishioners several weeks ago, I said that The Basilica of Saint Mary was one of the parishes that made a confidential pledge of financial support to the settlement fund. This decision was made in consultation with our Parish Council and Finance committee. After setting a range for this contribution, they directed that our Parish Trustees and I make the final decision as to the amount of the contribution. The money for this pledge came from our parish reserves, which are funded by the rental income from our school building. Our financial pledge won’t be payable until the details of the settlement are finalized. It is our hope that making this pledge of financial support will send a strong message of solidarity and support to the victims/survivors. 

7. Parish Packing Event: After the Masses on Sunday, August 12 numerous people came together to help put school supplies into almost 200 backpacks for students at Ascension School. The school supplies were collected throughout June and July. These backpacks helped students at Ascension School start the school year off with the supplies they needed. Many thanks to all those who contributed school supplies during June and July, and to the numerous people who helped put them in to the backpacks. 

8. The Current Situation in our Church: As I said in a letter to parishioners a few weeks ago, lately it has been hard to be a Catholic. There have been accusations of sexual abuse and other sexually inappropriate behavior against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Additionally, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report about the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. And most recently (at least as I write this column at the end of August) the former Apostolic Delegate to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, wrote a letter highly critical of Pope Francis and several other Church leaders. In the first two cases, it appears that those who were in positions to do something bear both legal and moral culpability for their inaction. In regard to the letter from Archbishop Vigano, it is suspect in that Vigano accused Pope Francis of lifting sanctions against former Cardinal McCarrick that had never been put in place. 

In the face of this situation, it would seem that there is very little I, or any other priest or bishop, could or should say. And yet to say nothing could be misconstrued as acquiescence to or acceptance of this situation. And so I offer two brief thoughts. 

First, while our church is facing a very difficult time in its history, I believe that ultimately it will emerge purified and more humble. I say this because it is our belief that the Holy Spirit remains with and guides our church until the end of time. And I firmly believe the Spirit will not allow our church to deviate fundamentally from the truth of the Gospel, from its mission, and from its life of faith. We call this charism: “Indefectibility.” Certainly, our church has veered off course in the past. And clearly a course correction is called for at the present moment. Ultimately, though, because of the guidance of the Spirit, I have to believe that our church can’t go into fundamental error. 

Second, as I said in my homily a few weeks ago, I realize that for many people the above revelations have caused them to lose faith in, and in some cases to leave the Catholic Church—at least for now. I am deeply saddened by this. At the same time I understand and respect their decision. For me, though, the Catholic Church is my home. It is too much a part of me to let it go. I cannot live without the Eucharist. I need the Eucharist to live as a follower of Jesus, and I need the faith of the community to make the Eucharist real and alive in my life. The Catholic Church is my home. I can have no other.

 

Rev. John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

 

 

 

Sesquicentennial Parish Anniversary

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – The Basilica of Saint Mary celebrates 150 years as a parish with the Sesquicentennial Celebration Masses Sunday, September 30 at 9:30am and 11:30am with Archbishop Bernard Hebda. The parish was founded in the “Shed Church” in 1868 near the west side of the Mississippi River and has continued to grow and thrive for 150 years. The Basilica’s vibrant community, with over 12,800 members, will mark the historic anniversary with a year of celebrations, events, and art exhibits.
 
Throughout the history of the parish—including two locations, three churches, and eleven pastors – there have consistently been the people who have lived and worshipped here as a community. Over the past 150 years, the parish has always been a home to immigrants, committed to serving people in need, and a community of hope.
“This anniversary is about celebrating the Basilica community—the people of the parish, not the building—as a spiritual home, a place of peace, and a place of refuge for 150 years. We plan to not just look back, but ahead to the future growth and needs of our parish,” said Fr. John M. Bauer, Pastor of The Basilica of Saint Mary.
 
Sesquicentennial Opening Celebration Masses
Sunday, September 30 – 9:30am and 11:30am
The Celebrations will include large entrance processions along with music from The Basilica Cathedral Choir, Mundus Contemporary Ensemble, organ, and brass ensemble. Archbishop Bernard Hebda will preside at both Masses and all past priests who have presided over the years at The Basilica are invited to attend. The public is welcome to attend.
 
About Basilica of Saint Mary
The Basilica of Saint Mary, located in downtown Minneapolis, is a welcoming Catholic community committed to the well-being of the city. It is a center for the arts and a place of refuge for the poor. The Basilica provides quality liturgy, religious education, pastoral care, and hospitality to all. The parish is the spiritual home to over 6,500 families of all ages, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds.
 
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CONTACT:
Mae Desaire 
Director of Marketing & Communications 
Cell: 612-247-0008 
mdesaire@mary.org 
 

STATEMENT REGARDING REVIEW BOARD FOR BISHOPS
From Auxiliary Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens

 

Right now, the Catholic Church desperately needs an independent structure, led by experienced lay personnel, to investigate and review allegations made against bishops, archbishops and cardinals – and not just priests, as is the case in many dioceses throughout the United States. As a practical matter, bishop-led investigations have mixed credibility in the public domain: some inevitably believe the accused bishop is being treated unfairly; others believe he is receiving preferential treatment. A fair resolution becomes unachievable. The accuser deserves better. We all deserve better.

I am acutely aware of this, because I was personally involved, along with Bishop Lee Piché, in guiding the investigation of Archbishop John Nienstedt in 2014. In retrospect, it was doomed to fail. We did not have enough objectivity or experience with such investigations. Nor did we have authority to act. Throughout our efforts, we did not know where we could turn for assistance, because there was no meaningful structure to address allegations against bishops.

In the case of Archbishop Nienstedt, in early 2014, Archbishop Nienstedt asked his subordinates to conduct a review of allegations against him. When affidavits containing serious allegations of misconduct by Archbishop Nienstedt with adults were brought forward, Bishop Piché and I tried our best to bring them to the attention of people who might have authority to act and guide the investigation. This included the then nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganó. When Bishop Piché and I believed that we were being told by the nuncio to close the investigation, we strenuously objected. When the nuncio clarified that we should focus the investigation and complete it, we did so. Although there were internal disagreements about how to complete it, Bishop Piché thought it best to hire a second firm to complete the review, because Archbishop Nienstedt contended the first firm had been unfair to him. Father Daniel Griffith strongly disagreed with that decision. During this long period, on more than one occasion, I counseled Archbishop Nienstedt to resign for the good of the Archdiocese.

Throughout this process, there was confusion about who was ultimately in charge and what should be done to ensure a fair outcome. I think that Bishop Piché believes that the investigation was completed to the best of his ability. I understand the strong frustrations expressed by Father Griffith, whom I believe acted in good faith and with sincerity and integrity. We all did the best we could in a difficult situation.

In contrast, today we are better prepared. When there is an allegation against a bishop or archbishop in our Archdiocese, it is reported to the Board of Directors, lay people. They play a vital role in making certain that all allegations are investigated and addressed. I believe that a similar approach utilizing lay expertise is necessary on the national level. An independent national review board would result in a more fair process for holding the hierarchy accountable. In this way, there will be more confidence in our Church leaders in the future.

 

STATEMENT REGARDING ACTION AND ACCOUNTABILITY
From Archbishop Bernard A. Hebda

In the aftermath of the demoralizing Pennsylvania grand jury report and the troubling claims made by our former nuncio, Archbishop Viganó, much has been said about the scandals in our Church  worldwide and here in Minnesota. I can only imagine how jarring those reports must be for those who have survived abuse and for their families. I am sorry for the harm inflicted and the ongoing pain caused to so many.

In recent days, I have continued to hear from many concerned people: young parents worried about the safety of their children, seasoned parishioners wondering when this crisis may end, priests asking how they can serve their parishioners when they themselves no longer know who is trustworthy, and bishops regretting that we were so slow to seek the help of lay experts and act with fuller transparency. In the midst of this darkness, it is the Lord’s promise that he will be with us always (Mt 28:20), that he will never abandon his Church, that gives me hope. As the darkness of the past is brought to light, I am trusting in St. Paul’s insight that what is illuminated will itself be light (Eph. 5:13).

I have been encouraged to put these global issues in a local context and reaffirm publicly both our commitment to justice and healing for those who have been harmed and our conviction that abuse can never be tolerated. Yet, I offer my comments knowing full well that mere words and apologies ring hollow unless accompanied by actions.

With that in mind, allow me to briefly describe the actions that have been taken in this local Church. Working with the lay volunteers on our Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board, Corporate Board of Directors and Finance Council, along with many other volunteers, employees and clergy throughout the Archdiocese, we have constructively and openly confronted our failures – the failures that led to criminal and civil charges, bankruptcy, a loss of trust and a weakening of our moral voice. Although we have more to do, we have come a long way. In 2015, we entered into a far-reaching Settlement Agreement with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office that requires us to take verifiable actions to prevent future abuses. The agreement has improved the way we respond to victim/survivors; the way we hold priests accountable; the way we accept, prepare and promote seminarians; the way we train our priests, employees and volunteers; and how we educate our children and youth in every parish and Catholic school in the Archdiocese. It has helped to improve our culture. We have not only abided by that agreement, but have done more than it requires. This has been verified in court every six months. More recently, we worked with victim survivors to file a joint plan in the bankruptcy court that financially compensates those who have been harmed in our Archdiocese. We have also changed our governance within the Archdiocese, embracing greater involvement and collaboration between the Corporate Board and Finance Council, which assures greater oversight by lay leaders.

Certainly, we cannot rest on these actions alone. There will be challenges in the future, but we now draw on the expertise of a broad range of individuals, primarily laity, to address those issues with integrity, objectivity and transparency. It is my hope that what has been learned here can serve the broader Church nationally and internationally.

Turning now to the issue of bishop accountability, let me first explain the improved process that has been in place here since 2015. Based on the Ramsey County Settlement Agreement, when an allegation is leveled against an auxiliary bishop or archbishop, the Director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment is required to notify the Corporate Board. Thus, the allegation is made known to lay leadership who have duties to provide oversight and fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. Moreover, a claim today cannot be settled without the knowledge and involvement of our lay leaders. Both of those measures of accountability are new, and critically important.

Regarding accountability for bishops around the world: I fully support engaging lay leadership. Church leaders must be judged by outsiders who have the independence, objectivity and expertise to be fair and credible. We need the assurance that any cleric  whether a newly ordained priest or a Pope  who abused minors or knowingly protected or enabled such abusers, will be held accountable. The same is true for those who abuse their position to take advantage of vulnerable adults, persons receiving spiritual care or seminarians. An oversight board similar in make-up, independence and authority to our Archdiocesan Ministerial Review Board should be empaneled to address accusations of misconduct against bishops and archbishops. We would also benefit from the appointment of a number of trusted outsiders who can assist those who have grievances. Locally, former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson fulfills that role as our appointed ombudsperson, giving those aggrieved a safe avenue for pursuing claims without fear of repercussions.

Having had good reasons to place my trust in both Pope Francis and Archbishop Viganó, I am personally at a loss as to how to evaluate the claims that have been made by the Archbishop. Based on my experience in this Archdiocese, I believe that some form of an independent review led by credible outsiders is the only way to resolve such situations and restore trust.

In conclusion, I am fully committed to the course we are on to correct our failings, advance accountability, assist those harmed and prevent future abuse. I realize that I am far from perfect, but I always try to act to the best of my ability and with integrity, collaborating with the many hardworking and committed individuals in this Archdiocese who contribute every day to making our Church a better place through their steadfast dedication to safe environments and the Gospel.

Mindful of Pope Francis’ recent call for prayer and fasting, I invite our priests, and all others, to join me for a Eucharistic holy hour of reparation and prayers for healing at the Cathedral of Saint Paul on the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, Saturday, September 15 at 11 a.m.

 

 

This past week as I was reflecting on our Gospel today I kept returning to Jesus’ question to his disciples:  “Do you also want to leave?”   Given the news involving priests and bishops in the Catholic Church the past couple weeks, this is a question I have asked myself.  I suspect many of you have also asked yourself this question. 

And to be honest, I know more than a few people for whom the latest news was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  They have decided that --- at least for now --- they need to take a step away from the Catholic Church. While I am grieved and deeply saddened by this, I understand and respect their decision.      

For myself, though, despite the news of the past couple of weeks, despite the failures of our bishops, and despite the sinful and evil actions of many priests, I cannot leave the Catholic Church.   I say this for two specific reasons.  

1.  I need to belong to a community.  I need to be with people who believe as I do.   I don’t think we can be our best selves unless we are part of a community.  And I don’t believe that we are saved alone, as isolated individuals. 

Rather, I believe that God draws us to himself, through the communities of which we are a part, and for me the Catholic Church --- and particularly the Basilica --- is my community.   It is too much a part of me for me to let it go.    

2.  I need the Eucharist and the other sacraments.   As I tell the children making their First Communion each year,   I know I am not the best person/priest that I could be, BUT I would be far worse without the Eucharist. 

The Eucharist helps me to be a better person than I would otherwise be.   I need the Eucharist to live as a follower of Jesus, and I need the faith of the community to make the Eucharist real and alive in my life.   

Now in deciding to stay in the Catholic Church, I also want to be absolutely clear that this does not mean that I think we can gloss over the events of the past few weeks.  
It is essential that we acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by priests, by bishops and by those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for the most vulnerable among us.  

With shame and repentance, we must acknowledge that the leaders of our church allowed grave damage to be done to so many young lives.  We need to beg forgiveness for this.  As Pope Francis said in his recent letter: “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

We also need to be clear that no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. 

The pain of the victims and their families is a wound from which our church will not soon recover.  It is vital that we reaffirm our commitment --- and take steps to ensure --- the protection of children and vulnerable adults.  Specifically what this means is that all of us must demand honesty, accountability, transparency, and a willingness on the part of our leader to accept responsibility for their actions.  

No effort must be spared to create a culture which will prevent such situations from reoccurring and to ensure that there is no possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated. 

I believe that if there is a lesson to be learned from the current crisis facing our church, it is that we must listen to the voice of you --- the laity --- the people in the pews.   Reform, healing, renewal must come about from every single member of the church.  Since the ordained haven’t or can’t provide it, you must demand it of us.  You’ve been commissioned by your baptism to be salt and light, leaven and courage, agents of renewal, and witnesses to hope in our world.  And at this moment, particularly, our church desperately needs to hear your voice.   

As sinful and incompetent as the leaders of our church have been in responding to the issue of sexual abuse, however, this Church is still my home.    And so as I close today I paraphrase Peter’s words in our Gospel today: “Master to whom shall I go?  Your church is my home.  I can have no other.”   

Dear Parishioners: 

Lately it has been hard to be a Catholic. A few weeks ago we heard of multiple accusations of sexually inappropriate behavior against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. More recently, a grand jury in Pennsylvania released a report about the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests in six dioceses in Pennsylvania. In regard to former Cardinal McCarrick, the accusations go as far back as his time as a newly ordained priest. In regard to the grand jury report, it listed credible allegations of sexual abuse of children by 300 priests over a period of 70 years. In each case, those who were in positions to do something either chose not to, or simply looked the other way. This was not just bad decision making. Those individuals bear both legal and moral culpability for their inaction. In the face of this situation, it would seem that there is very little I, or any other priest or bishop, could or should say. And yet to say nothing could be misconstrued as acquiescence to or acceptance of this situation. Given this, I would like to offer the following thoughts.

1. First and foremost, we must be clear and unmistakable in our absolute condemnation of the sexual abuse of children. There is no excuse to be made for it and no defense to be offered for those who would victimize a child in this way. When anyone (most particularly a child) is a victim of sexual abuse, we must be clear and unequivocal in our condemnation of this activity. Any attempt to explain or minimize this behavior is quite simply wrong. 

When priests or bishops engage in behavior that is sexually abusive or exploitive they cannot, nor should they be shielded from the consequences of their actions. Where illegality has occurred or is suspected, our legal system must be engaged and allowed to function without hindrance. Where actions of Church officials are found to be insufficient or negligent, they also must face the consequences of their actions or inaction. 

2. While several Bishops have offered their apologies for the mistakes that occurred in the past and the suffering these mistakes caused, I am deeply disappointed that those Bishops, whose ill-advised decisions to re-assign priest abusers led to the further abuse of children, have not resigned their positions, or if they are already retired, why they haven’t publicly acknowledged their failure and begged for forgiveness. Where their actions were illegal they need to be charged. And even if there are no legal repercussions for their actions, for the sake of those who were abused and for the good of the church, I think these bishops need to publicly take responsibility for their actions. While this act in itself will not restore the trust that has been broken, it is a beginning. 

3. While acknowledgement of the source and depth of the problem and offering our deepest and most humble apologies are necessary first steps in responding to the victims of sexual abuse, our efforts cannot stop there. When innocent people, most particularly children, have been the victims of sexual abuse we, as a Church, must recognize our responsibility and offer the full measure of our support and assistance to those who have been victimized. Very practically this means that we must offer recompense to victims of sexual abuse in the form of services and monetary compensation. Further, we must ensure that the policies, procedures and safeguards that have been put in place to protect children and vulnerable adults are adhered to strictly. We must also offer programs to help our individuals and parishes grapple with this issue. In this regard, specifically, I would invite you to attend a program here at The Basilica entitled “Restorative Justice as a Path to Healing.” It is scheduled for Thursday evening September 20, from 6:30-9:30pm in the lower level of The Basilica.

4. At some point we, as individual Catholics, and as a parish community, are going to need to begin the hard work of forgiveness. I don’t know how we will go about this, but for the spiritual health and vitality of our Church, I believe that eventually we will need to forgive those priests who abused children, as well as those bishops and other leaders who allowed this abuse to happen. This is not to say that forgiveness is easy, or that in forgiving we are accepting and/or forgetting the horror of sexual abuse. Rather it is an acknowledgement that, as followers of Jesus, ultimately forgiveness is not optional for us. 
(Matthew 18:35) 

Personally, I find forgiveness to be one of the hardest things that is asked of us as Christians. I do know, though, that with God’s grace forgiveness is possible, and that it starts with prayer. Prayer is the essential first ingredient to forgiveness. We need to pray for and with each other, and most particularly for those who brought this stain upon our Church. Certainly prayer cannot change what has happened, but it can have a salving effect on wounded souls and eventually it can bring about healing and peace. 

Over the course of the past several years each time new charges of sexual impropriety against a priest has become public, I have been shocked, saddened, and angry. These incidents have been and continue to be a source of great pain and sadness for me. I had hoped that by this time we would have dealt with all the instances of sexual impropriety on the part of priests. Unfortunately, these latest cases have proven this to be a false hope. These cases are a wound from which our church will not soon recover. I do know and believe, though, that in order to move forward, prayer is where we need to begin.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

 

John M. Bauer
Pastor, The Basilica of Saint Mary

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