I would suspect that the vast majority of people who are reading this article are aware that a major Summit has just recently finished at the Vatican, a meeting of the Presidents of each of the Episcopal Conferences of the Church around the world, some of the Major Superiors of Religious Congregations, periti (professionals in the field of sexual abuse), and several survivors of sexual abuse around the world. Even though there have been Ecumenical Councils and consultations regarding specific topics before, as far as I know, this is the first meeting such as this held from February 21-25, 2019.
One of the unique aspects of this meeting was the bishops hearing the perspective voiced by women. One of them, Sister Veronica Openibo of Nigeria, told the participants that “probably like many of you, I have heard many Africans and Asians say that this is not our issue. It is a problem in Europe, the Americas, Canada and Australia. Other problems in the region such as poverty, illness, war, and violence does not mean that the area of sexual abuse should be downplayed or ignored. The Church must be proactive in facing it.” And the women were insistent on the importance of lay men and women becoming part of the solution.
Now that the meeting is finished and most of the bishops have returned to their home Sees, there are varying reflections of what has been accomplished during these days. On the positive side, many bishops have learned a great deal about the topic of sexual abuse, some of whom had wondered why they had been called together since in their opinion it was not an issue in their country or region. On the negative side, critics often were reporting that nothing new came out of the meeting—only a regurgitation of the same rhetoric, all words and no actions. Both of these observations have merit, but I would like to alert you to some other aspects of the meeting which I think are both important to note and to lay the groundwork for what I think will be the fruit of the meeting for the long haul.
After this meeting, the Church will be a Church that admits its faults and sins. This will be a very different Church in how it responds to sex abuse by priests, religious, and bishops than the one that existed only a few years ago. No longer will it be a besieged citadel but rather a Church genuinely in the world. It will not have an overly legalistic vision that is content simply to punish abusers but without a corresponding real increase in awareness or without working with those who have already mobilized to combat the scourge of child abuse around the world.
Pope Francis has succeeded in his efforts to develop a much greater level of awareness among the world’s bishops, many of whom were a long way from sharing his vision. Pope Francis is convinced that processes are more important than blunt decisions, and through patience he has been able to change the collective state of mind in the space of a few short days. Whereas Rome’s attempts at change have bumped up against the inertia of some bishops’ conferences for many years, the bishops’ growing awareness of their common responsibility for abuse and its management should now enable the Church to make much more orderly progress both against abuse and cover ups.
“The message given to the bishops was to ‘return home and get to work,’” said Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, one of the meeting organizers. “There were many ideas, but now we need to put it all into practice, and I am expecting the backing of the Holy See with this,” said Cardinal Reinhard Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, which has often been at loggerheads with Rome when it sought more freedom to act.
By removing the blinkers of a number of bishops, the meeting also enabled them to better appreciate their own failures. “Many of those who believed that abuses did not exist have suddenly begun to raise very basic questions. Now they are aware of what they need to do and they want to act. The meeting was very useful on this point.”
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will soon publish a practical document that will clearly set out the procedures bishops must follow in abuse cases. Cardinal Blasé Cupich spoke to the assembly and outlined a detailed process that should be implemented, he said, in dealing both with priests who had been credibly accused and with bishops who were accused of covering up cases or not following the agreed upon procedures.
Follow up meetings are now being held to launch in depth each of the issues which should lead to concrete results. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he expects American prelates to adopt new accountability measures for the cover up of abuse at their June meeting. You might remember our bishops were prepared to debate and decide on these already last November, but Pope Francis asked that they wait until after the Summit.
Even more significant than adopting any new laws, it will be vital to establish a more collegial Church in which Rome will work more closely with the bishops and they, in turn, with lay people. It will no longer be a Church inherited from the Council of Trent, but now the Church of Vatican II.
THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
The readings for this First Sunday of Lent remind us of the giving of the Law to God’s people on Mount Sinai and the covenant relationship that we share in Christ.
In today’s First Reading, we hear about a ritual called the Offering of First Fruits. It was traditionally done in the Jerusalem Temple on the first day of Shavuot, also known as the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost in thanksgiving for the spring wheat harvest. Even today, it is a celebration in remembrance of the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai.
In the Second Reading, however, Paul contrasts Israel’s relationship with God that comes through Jewish Law with the relationship that comes through faith in the Christ whom God raised from the dead. This is not to say that the Law is useless or obsolete. It continues to be the obligation of Jews for all time, but Paul’s point is that, in Jesus who was a faithful Jew and God’s chosen, Jews and Gentiles can now worship the same God.
The Gospel also references Jewish Law but in a vastly different way. Here we are given the opportunity to witness a verbal wrestling match between Jesus and the devil, a spirit with malicious intent. Notice that the devil quotes Psalm 91 as he tests the limits of Jesus’ allegiance to God, but Jesus holds strong and responds with quotations from Deuteronomy, which represent Moses’ restatement of the Law before God’s Chosen People returned to the Promised Land. But this story is not over. We are told that the devil left Jesus for a time.
In the First Reading, from Deuteronomy, we hear the account that the Israelites are to give upon setting down their offerings. They are to tell how God heard their cry, saw their affliction, and relieved them of their torment. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that God provides for our needs and frees us from oppression (##301-307).
“Because he clings to me, I will deliver him,” states today’s Responsorial Psalm. The Catechism of the Catholic Church points out that God is with us always, even in times of trouble. In an exposition on the Our Father, it explains that “the Father gives us strength when tempted and that temptations will never exceed that strength” (#2848).
In the Gospel we hear how at each temptation Jesus refused the devil, rebuking him with Scripture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Jesus was tempted but did not sin. “Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam and Eve in Paradise and of Israel in the desert” (#538).
St. Paul tells the Romans that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Salvation comes through Jesus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches. It states: “Since God alone can forgive sins, it is god who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, will save his people from their sins” (#430).
For Your Reflection: How were you strengthened by the Lord’s presence when you were troubled? What can you do this Lent to believe more with your heart? What temptation will you deal with this Lent?
BREAKING BREAD WITH OUR NEIGHBORS IN NEED
The friars and staff of St. Peter’s in the Loop are once again inviting people in need to join us for a meal and companionship here at the church (you might remember that we did this for the first time last November in conjunction with the World Day of the Poor) now on this Wednesday, March 13, at 12:00 noon. We are preparing to serve as many people as possible in our auditorium along with the help of many restaurants in the Loop who are donating food. We are hoping that many of our needy brothers and sisters will join us for this occasion. If you have volunteered by getting in touch with Fr. Ed Tverdek, please be sure to know what your assignment will be and at what time you are to report for the luncheon. This is a great opportunity to feed the hungry, a corporal work of mercy, and a great Lenten practice.
THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS
Every Friday during Lent we pray the Stations of the Cross publically in church at 4:15 P.M. This devotion began in Jerusalem many centuries ago when Christians began walking the path that was thought to be the one Jesus walked on Good Friday as he moved from being condemned to death by Pilate, travelled the streets where he met Cyrus of Cyrene, the weeping Women, and the Blessed Mother, fell several times and then arrived at Golgotha to be crucified. Even though many of us may never get to Jerusalem to trace the steps of Jesus, we can walk with Him as we move from station to station in church, meditating on his sufferings, death and burial for our salvation.
You are most welcome to join others each Lenten Friday afternoon to make this journey; you may either stay in one pew or join us as we physically move around the church. I remind you that on these Lenten Fridays Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will take place shortly after 4:00 P.M. so that we can begin the Stations on time at 4:15.
LENTEN RENEWAL SERIES:
Healing: Everyone Needs It
We invite you to participate in our five-part Lenten Lecture Series entitled, “Healing: Everyone Needs It,” which will take place on Tuesdays March 12 through April 9, in the St. Clare Auditorium from 12:10-12:50. This is a vital discussion of the many forms of healing that exist and how we might better open ourselves to each one of them, not only during the Season of Lent but also throughout our lives. Who among us does not feel a need for some kind of healing that will seemingly make us feel better and more complete? We sometimes suffer from disease, from everyday aches and pains, from hurts either from the past or the present, from disappointments and unresolved issues in our lives. These Tuesday sessions do not guarantee that all these will disappear immediately, but what you learn may allow you to continue on a path of wholeness that will be extremely beneficial.
Please consult the notice on page 7 of this bulletin for a more detailed description of these sessions or on the bulletin board in the church lobby. We hope many people will be able to take advantage of this unique opportunity during Lent.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG WOMEN
The Little Sisters of the Poor invite young women in vocational discernment to join them for a weekend service trip among the elderly poor. This experience from 6:00 PM on Friday, March 22, until 2:00 PM on Sunday, March 24, is open to single Catholic women ages 18-35 who are considering a vocation to the consecrated religious life. There is no cost to participate; meals and accommodations will be provided. Register at [email protected] or 773-484-8444. The registration deadline is March 18th.
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
We remind you that Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this year at 2:00 A.M. today, Sunday, March 10. Be sure to set your clock ahead one hour before you go to bed on Saturday so that you will be able to arrive on time for Sunday Mass. All too often we hear people asking us something like, “Father, when did you change the Mass times?” The answer: “We didn’t change the Mass times; the government changed the time throughout the United States.” I happen to be a fan of the longer hours of daylight in the evening, so I welcome the change. It also becomes a great reminder that spring, warmer weather, and baseball season are just around the corner.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE LENTEN SEASON
A boy was assigned a paper on childbirth, so he asked his mother, “How was I born?
“Well, honey,” said the slightly prudish mother, “the stork brought you to us.”
“Oh,” said the boy. “And how did you and Daddy get born?”
“Oh, the stork brought us too.”
“Well, how were Grandpa and Grandma born?” the boy persisted.
“Well, darling, the stork brought them too!” said the mother, by now starting to squirm a little.
Several days later, the boy handed his paper to the teacher, who read with confusion the opening sentence. “This report has been very difficult to write due to the fact that there hasn’t been a natural childbirth in my family for three generations.”