September 9, 2018
These past several weeks have been extremely difficult for so many of us. Deep down we have to admit that we usually look forward to having peace and quiet surround us as much as possible, although we know that is not always the case. Even though we had heard of the Grand Jury investigation of the files of six dioceses in the State of Pennsylvania, I don’t think any of us were quite prepared for the results of that investigation when they were revealed in mid-August. How does one absorb being told that over a period of 70 years 300 priests had engaged in sexual misconduct with as many as 1000 children? How do we reconcile that with the fact that these were individuals who had pledged a life of celibacy and holiness as ordained priests and leaders of God’s people? How could it be that they would somehow lead these children into these horrible crimes? While we are far too acquainted with sexual abuse taking place in a variety of situations throughout society nowadays, we have every right to expect that a far higher standard would be in place for those who have been chosen to be leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ.
In addition to the findings of the Grand Jury in Pennsylvania, we have learned of similar actions in Chile, Ireland and Australia, along with credible allegations against former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and accusations of cover ups by a number of bishops in their dealings with priests in their dioceses. All this has brought many people questioning the actions of authorities in the Catholic Church at all levels. If there is one thing that is necessary for the Church to have moral authority in faith and morals, it is trust in the way leadership addresses problems that arise. In this area of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, it has all the hallmarks of protecting the reputation of the institution rather than being concerned about the welfare of those who have been harmed. The Catholic Church has made many horrible mistakes in how it has dealt with both the victims and the perpetrators over these past decades.
As many of you know, I served as the Provincial Minister of our Sacred Heart Franciscan Province from 1991-1999. Those eight years of provincial leadership held many positive experiences for me as well as a number of very painful and heart-wrenching ones. These latter ones primarily were about the allegations of sexual misconduct that were brought to my attention. It was during my years of leadership that more and more of these accusations were coming to the fore throughout the United States and making headlines in the media. I was totally unprepared as to how to deal with the accused and to be present to the accusers. Thankfully my predecessor had already begun to seek professional assistance in this regard so that certain approaches were in place when I took office.
It was most difficult to meet with individuals who wanted to tell their stories of how things had happened and exactly what they remembered. In most cases they had lived with this experience for a number of years with a variety of emotions, and often they had told no one of what had taken place. In some instances they had repressed their feelings out of guilt and shame, and now only recently had these resurfaced. In most cases they had received little or no professional help to deal with the incident(s). At that point all I could do (or we could do since I tried to have at least one other friar along with me) was to listen, try to empathize, to apologize, to offer counseling assistance, and to promise that I would also speak with the one they indicated who had caused their pain.
At the same time it was agonizing to have to tell the friar involved about what I had heard. I listened to his version of the incident (sometimes they said they did not remember anything or that in their opinion it was significantly different than what I had been told), and in some cases the friar that had been accused was now deceased. I had to at least temporarily remove the friar from active ministry and sometimes even transfer him to another friary where there could be better supervision until this accusation could be resolved. In many cases the friar underwent treatment for a period of time, usually at a center specializing in such treatment, and we would await a recommendation from the center concerning whether the friar could be placed back in active ministry. While this process may have given the impression that some individuals were merely being moved from one place to another arbitrarily, it really was after much discussion with the professional staff, who sometimes did not recommend further ministry among the faithful.
These procedures eventually lead to the adoption of the Dallas Charter by the United States Conference of Bishops in 2002 (more formally known as The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People) and which is also applicable to all Religious Orders in the United States. This charter with all its provisions over these past sixteen years has been a great step forward not only as to how these allegations of sexual abuse of minors must be handled, but also for the development of many educational programs for priests and religious in the area of continuing formation so that we become more aware of the parameters and boundaries we must observe in all our relationships with the people we serve. We have come to know how vulnerable we can be, even with our best intentions, and we know that we must always be on our guard. We are much more aware of how precious each person is, especially the young, and how careful we must be to not overstep our limits.
As I said earlier in this article, many mistakes have been made in the past. I hope and pray that many fewer will happen as we move forward in the Church so that all will come to know Jesus Christ, who is Lord and Savior of us all.
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Isaiah presents a reassuring vision of God’s healing and restorative powers. Those marginalized by suffering will receive new life: the blind, deaf, lame, and mute. Even creation will be renewed and the desert overflow with life-giving water.
The Gospel shows us the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision in Jesus’ ministry with the healing of the deaf and mute man. Mark’s account describes Jesus performing the miracle in realistic detail. Jesus treats the man with respect by taking him aside from the crowd and showing him special concern. Looking up to heaven as he performs the healing, Jesus demonstrates his unity with the Father. Putting his fingers into the man’s ears and touching his tongue with spittle, Jesus utters his command, “Be opened,” and the man is healed of his disabilities.
These actions of Jesus have been incorporated into the Church’s baptismal ritual. Before the Baptism of adults and after the Baptism of children, the priest or deacon touches the person’s mouth and ears, asking the Lord to open their ears to receive the Word of the Lord and to open their mouth to proclaim their faith. This is the Ephphetha, named after the words Jesus spoke.
Mark reports that the people acknowledge what Jesus has done by saying, “He has done all things well”—a reminder of God’s words at the creation of the world (Genesis 1:31).
James’ letter offers a vignette that challenges us to emulate Jesus, who treated every person with dignity. No distinctions should be made among Jesus’ followers. Rich and poor must be embraced equally without discrimination. James shows how Jesus’ teaching should be carried out in the lives of the worshipping community.
Today we see Jesus taking time apart to care for a person who could not hear. The Church teaches that it is our work to spread the light of Christ to those in need. In Deus caritas est, Pope Benedict XVI equates the importance of caring for people with the sacraments. He writes: “Love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind is as essential to the Church as the ministry of the sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel” (#22).
Responding to Isaiah’s proclamation that the Lord will save, the Responsorial Psalm states that the “Lord raises up those who were bowed down.” Apostolicam actuositatem teaches that the Church is to serve others as it acts on behalf of Christ. The document states that the Church “claims charitable works as its own mission and right. That is why mercy to the poor and sick, charitable works and works of mutual aid for the alleviation of all kinds of human need, are especially esteemed in the church” (#8).
We hear in the Responsorial Psalm that the Lord sustains ‘the fatherless and the widow.” Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish points out that faith communities must consider the work that they do on behalf of those in need. “Parishes should be measured by our help for the hungry, the homeless, the troubled, and the alienated—in our own community and beyond.”
Isaiah shows how God favors the poor in that he will cure the lame, open the eyes of the blind, and clear the ears of the deaf. The Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et spes notes that people are to be mindful of those in need, giving from more than their abundance. “The Fathers and Doctors of the Church held that people are bound to come to the aid of the poor and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods” (#69).
For Your Reflection: What is your role in setting captives free? In word or deed, how can you become better at treating people with dignity? When have you prayed that your ears are open to hear what God wants to tell you?
WELCOME, MRS. JO ANN BEDNAR
As we announced in the bulletin several weeks ago, Carolyn Jarosz, who has been our Director of Activities for the past ten years, will be leaving us in order to move to Peoria, Illinois, to begin a new life and to be near her son and daughter-in-law. Carolyn has served with dignity and dedication all these years, and we owe her a great deal of thanks for all the many ways she has enhanced our ministry. On August 23 we had a farewell party for her in the auditorium, and I was pleased that so many people came to wish her well.
We have hired Mrs. Jo Ann Bednar as Carolyn’s replacement as Activities Director. Jo Ann comes to us from Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Illinois, where she was employed as Office Manager. However, she has a wide experience that she brings to her new position with us, such as owning her own business, working for WGN Television and Radio, serving at St. Patrick’s Parish in Wadsworth, Illinois, being employed by the Archdiocese of Chicago both in Public Relations and at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Conference Center, etc. She begins her position at St. Peter’s this Monday, September 10, and Carolyn will work with here for several days in order to acquaint her with the various aspects of the office.
Please feel free to stop down to the Activities Office soon to welcome Jo Ann and to make her feel quite at home.
WELCOME, COLLEGE STUDENTS
We look forward to seeing many college students—both those returning to school after the summer hiatus and those coming to Chicago colleges and universities for the first time. We want you to know that our doors are always open for you for Mass, for the sacrament of reconciliation, for consultation with a friar on the mezzanine, for time before the Blessed Sacrament on weekdays between 1:45-4:45, for a short visit for prayer, to visit our Book and Gift Shop, etc. No matter what campus you attend somewhere in the Loop, we are not far away. You might also want to check out our website about our Young Adults Group which meets each Monday in the auditorium from 5:30-7:00. We also encourage you to spread the word about St. Peter’s to your classmates and friends.
PRAYING VESPERS AT ST. PETER’S
We invite you to join us for Vespers (Evening Prayer) in church on most Mondays and Wednesdays shortly after the conclusion of the 5:00 P.M. Mass. This is a common prayer with both the friars and laity together praying this liturgical hour of the Church. We provide the book in which the prayer can be found; all you have to do is bring yourself and a desire to join with people around the world who pray this prayer every single day. We are always finished by 6:00, so you should be able to make your train or your bus if you decide to join us. Just come up to the front of church by the St. Joseph altar, and we will show you how the prayer is recited. We hope many people will consider this way of ending your day on a pleasant note.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE FALL SEASON
A lion woke up one morning feeling really rowdy and mean. He went out and cornered a small monkey and roared, “Who is mightiest of all jungle animals?”
The trembling monkey answered, “You are, mighty lion!”
Later, the lion confronted an ox and fiercely bellowed, “Who is the mightiest of all jungle animals?”
The terrified ox stammered, “Oh, great lion, you are the mightiest animal in the jungle!”
On a roll now, the lion swaggered up to an elephant and roared, “Who is mightiest of all jungle animals?”
Fast as lightning, the elephant snatched up the lion with his trunk and slammed him against a tree half a dozen times, leaving the lion feeling as if it had been run over by a safari wagon. The elephant then stomped on the lion until it looked like a corn tortilla and ambled away.
The lion let out a moan of pain, lifted his head weakly, and hollered after the elephant, “Just because you don’t know the answer, you don’t have to get so upset about it!”