Thank you for your outpouring of support for me and all
priests. Thank you for your prayers for Pope Benedict. Let us also pray for the victims of abuse whose scabbed-over wounds are being torn open will all the events of late and the media frenzy swarming around it all. May we all be Christ’s healing presence.
Recently I was contacted via e-mail from someone who has since left the Catholic church in dismay over a bad experience and the scandal that continues to plague us. After responding to this hurt soul, I thought I might offer you my response as my own personal reflection for you to ponder upon. I’ve edited my letter for length as well to preserve the identity of this person from our area.
Dear (writer of the e-mail),
Thank you for your e-mail. I assume that since you’ve taken the time to speak your heart to me, I feel obliged because of love, truth, and a sincere desire for reconciliation to respond. Please indulge me as I offer you a rather lengthy e-mail.
First of all, I am saddened that no one contacted you when you first arrived at your old church. We here at St. Anne need to also review how we are receiving our new members as well as caring for those who need pastoral care. As the new pastor here, these are aspects of administration and guidance which I am working on with our community of faith. As you can imagine, we cannot please everyone all the time, and we frequently make mistakes. I like to think our church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital of sinners. Even at that, it is run by sin- ners. All Churches struggle in this regard.
Secondly, I am deeply saddened by the abuse of our young ones by priests so long ago. It is unconscionable. I agree. The reassignment of known abusers was also a horrible thing. As a priest, I am rather angry at my brother priests who have perpetrated such evil. The latest revelations about the abuse cases in Ireland continue to remind us that there is much work to be done. I feel horrible as this simply reopens the wounds of those here in the U.S. who have been abused. Prayer, penance, counseling, reconciliation, and more is needed. Our children need to be safe.
In service to the truth, I need to offer a reflection about the press. I caution you to reserve your judgments about the recent reports regarding the pope until all information has come forward. I welcome transparency and hope that all the details will be made known about the on goings of the events in question. I would caution you, however, not to believe everything you read in the papers or see on TV news. While the Church as a human institution has failed to keep our children safe in the past, and we are working to correct that, the major media groups have also failed to offer us, the public, the full story as to what has happened and how the Church has responded. The reasons as to why are debatable, but certainly the press has been anything but objective in its reporting. I’ve even been personally interviewed and taken way out of context. As such, I do not trust the newspaper or TV since they constantly fail to check their facts. This is by no means an excuse or rationalization of the evils that have been perpetrated in the name of the Church. But, we all like to pride ourselves in being well informed and able to talk intelligently about the truth. The issues are very complex and sound bites or one minute reporting just don’t honor the truth. The media has not given all the facts and has nuanced the data to fit their assumptions.They would have us believe that Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict) has done nothing to seek out the safety of our young people and has been a central figure in the cover-ups. I would encourage you to read the Wall Street Journal article posted on our web site as well as other links there that might offer you some other insights into the “rest of the story.” Go to www.stannechurch.com and I hope that will give you more information from which to discern.
Here is an example of some things that have not been mentioned in the media. Our Archdiocese, as well as virtually all the dioceses in the U.S., require all volunteers to be background checked and annually attend a safety class to help ensure the safety of our young people. When I was in seminary (circa 1993-2000), we spent copious amounts of time learning and reflecting about the scandal of child abuse by clergy. Our seminaries work hard to screen applicants like never before. Our programs with children and youth follow strict guidelines to make sure that we all follow the highest standards of care for the safety of our young people. But, if all we watch and read is the mass media, these facts are never mentioned. I believe that the Catholic Church in the U.S. has become a model of safety for children, a lesson, unfortunately, learned through tears, humiliation , and pain. There is still a long ways to go in other countries such as Ireland. The culture and attitudes that helped to create unsafe situations for our children are still being realized. I have confidence that they will do the right thing and remove the victimizers and seek reconciliation and healing with the victims.
I welcome the full disclosure of the skeletons in our closets and pray for the full truth to be known. This will only help the victims heal and help the Church to change. This is good. Let us pray for healing of both victims of abuse as well as a reformation of the Church. Let us also acknowledge that while one instance of abuse is too many, the Church is not alone in this societal scourge. I pray the Catholic Church will be renewed and lead the way for the safety of our children who are at risk in our public schools, foster care situations, and any other groups where abuse occurs.
I am glad you have found a Church that you can call home. Please pray for the Catholic Church. Let us pray even more fervently for the healing of those victimized by abusers whether from within the Church or from other situations. If you would like to sit and talk personally, I would be very open to listening to your concerns. May God bless you in the Easter Season.
Blessings,Fr. William Holtzinger