No doubt most, if not all, of you have either read in the paper or heard on tv about the latest revelations of what Cardinal Wuerl knew about accusations made in 2004 against then Cardinal McCarrick by a former priest of Pittsburgh during the time he was a seminarian studying for the diocese of Pittsburgh. He said the incident took place some years back when Archbishop McCarrick was then Archbishop of Newark, NJ. Then Bishop Wuerl reported this to the Vatican Ambassador who then sent on the information to Rome. In doing this he did the right thing since only the Pope can handle an accusation against a bishop.
Forward to this summer, when it became clear that then Cardinal McCarrick had been accused by two men of abuse when they were minors and by former seminarians of his past two Diocese, Cardinal Wuerl was asked about his foreknowledge of any such allegations against then Cardinal McCarrick before the summer. Cardinal Wuerl said he had never heard of such allegations before the summer. Yet now it comes to light that he not only received the testimony of this former priest in 2004 but that he reported it to authorities in Rome at the time. The Cardinal has now said at the time of the interviews he was only referring to abuse of minors, not of adults. He said he was asked about minors and so that’s what he referred too. He also said that at the time of the former priest’s testimony against then Cardinal McCarrick he (the former priest) asked that this not be made public. But this summer when allegations came to light by former seminarians of Meteuchen and former Newark seminarians against then Cardinal McCarrick he (the former priest) made his allegations public. Cardinal Wuerl in his latest statement on the priest’s accusations (now made public through the Washington Post) said that he had forgotten the 14-year allegation.
Just this week all the priests of the county met as we do every month to discuss how things are going in the parishes and in our priesthood. These latest revelations and the response of the Cardinal clearly has dominated our thoughts, prayers and conversations. How do we hold on when so many in leadership in the church have come to disappoint us or have caused us to feel so much justified anger and disgust?
I go again to the reply of a young adult catholic when asked this question recently. He said, “Not one word of the truths that Jesus Christ taught in the scriptures or revealed through divine revelation in His church have been proven false, only some of the men who were supposed to live them and teach them have failed to live up to their promises to Christ and His flock. I’m not going to let their unfaithfulness to Christ and His teaching make me unfaithful to Him.”
At every Mass, Jesus still transforms bread and wine into His body and Blood, at every confession he still wipes away sins and bestows an abundance of grace on those who choose to receive it, at every reception of the sacrament of the sick he still works healing in souls and at times in bodies. These have not and never will change, they were given by our Lord to be distributed by His church and they focus us even more upon our Lord and our call to Holiness.
We must pray for all those effected by this abuse crisis and those who have perpetrated these crimes against them. We must pray that the Lord continue to cleanse His church so that all of His teachings might shine through every Catholic. We must not let discouragement and sadness at the revelation of these past evils stop us from staying faithful to Christ and the Church He gave us.
Some years ago, Pope Benedict XVI said these words at World Youth Day, “The true reformers of the church are not those who lead her but the Saints!” We are called to answer the call to be saints today, and to work to advocate for greater accountability and faithfulness from our leaders in the Archdiocese and the Vatican.
These are not easy times to be a Catholic or a priest ministering to His Flock. Yet the Lord is calling us to be part of the healing and accountability that He wants in His Church today.
So, what can we do? First, pray daily for all victims of sexual abuse by clergy (and the even larger number who have been abused by family members and others)! Pray that the Pope soon appointment a new Archbishop who is very Holy and can bring healing and unity in the flock of God! Pray for the faithful bishops and priests to stay faithful to our promises and to become the Saints and pastors God is calling us to be! Offer up penances and sacrifices for the purification of the church especially as we prepare for Lent! When the new Archbishop is appointed, make sure to let him know that you want to see accountability for bishops as we have for the priests and we want Rome to do a thorough investigation of how Archbishop McCarrick could have gotten away with this for so long and yet risen so high! But the most important thing we can all do is to respond, ourselves, to the Lords call to an ever-deepening relationship of Love with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To become Saints and to bring as many of our family members, friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners with us as we can! This is a high call and a tough task, yet with Gods Help all things are possible!
Your Father and Brother in Christ,