A message from Fr. Hathaway on the clerical abuse revelations in Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.
In light of the grand jury report released this week chronicling decades of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania and the recent revelations regarding Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington D.C., I think it is appropriate to share my thoughts and let you know how the Diocese of Arlington handles allegations of this nature.
It is natural that we feel angry at the betrayed by bad shepherds who commit horrible crimes against the people of God. Along with Judas, these men betrayed Christ and the Church. Our hearts go out to the victims and everyone impacted by these events. Through the Mystical Body, we all share in the suffering of the victims of these heinous crimes, feel righteous anger that these terrible sins were ever committed and covered up, and shame that some of the leaders in our Church did not protect the flock but rather preyed upon it. We see the hand of Satan infiltrating the Body of Christ and are made vividly aware of the greater battle against evil that seeks to attack and destroy the Church both from within and without.
We pray for justice to be done, healing for the survivors of sexual abuse and for purification and right order within the Church. We ask the Holy Spirit to restore the beautiful witness of holiness revealed in Christ’s Body, the bright light of His Truth and Goodness that has been dimmed by these sins. The Church is not only Divine, it is also human, and thus it is always in need of conversion and renewal.
In a recent message to the priests of our Arlington Diocese, Bishop Burbidge wrote: “For over a month now we have experienced shock, anger and shame as we have heard about the grave sins of bishops and priests. Words cannot express the sorrow over what has been inflicted on our Lord’s Body by our own brothers.”
Bishop Burbidge reminded us that while the bishops have a responsibility to do penance and safeguard the Church from evil, as members of Christ’s Body we can all play a role in restoring the beauty of God’s Church and making reparation for these sins.
Bishop Burbidge has asked every priest to do three things: 1) Offer a Mass each month for the victims and in reparation for the sins of the clergy; 2) every Friday offer some mortification (e.g., fasting, abstinence, Stations of the Cross, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, etc.) for the same intention; and 3) include in our daily rosary the intention that Mary, Mother of the Clergy, will help us to respond properly to the crisis before us.
I invite each of you to join us. Offer your Holy Hour and Holy Communion once a month for the victims and in reparation for the sins of the clergy. On Fridays, make a special offering (fasting, etc.) for that purpose. When you pray the Rosary (daily, hopefully) add the prayer, “Mary, Mother of the Clergy, pray for us.”
In addition, be assured that our diocese immediately reports all allegations of any kind of abuse or neglect of children to appropriate legal authorities. No priest or deacon against whom a substantiated claim of abuse has been made is currently serving in active ministry in our diocese. Since 2002, every allegation of sexual abuse on the part of clergy has been investigated by our Diocesan Review Board, which from its inception has always been comprised of a majority of lay people.
It is important that we not be infected by the contagion of sin – to give into discouragement and despair, which is the one weapon the Devil needs to triumph. In the midst of this darkness, we see the light of Christ shine brightly in our Gospel and are reminded of His real presence in the Eucharist. The living and life-giving Eucharist is a sign that we are never in this battle alone. Jesus is walking with us and united with us as we open our hearts to Him in Holy Communion. As we receive the Eucharist with reverence and reparation, we ask our Lord to transform us and renew the Church with a purification of the Holy Spirit. The Mother of the Church and our Mother, Mary, is also with us on our pilgrimage through this world. May her purity, humility and love inspire and renew us.
Father Edward Hathaway
The Basilica of Saint Mary
For additional information and resources, including the most recent Vatican and United States Conference of Catholic Bishops statements regarding the grand jury report in Pennsylvania, please see www.ArlingtonDiocese.org/Child-Protection.