December 28, 2018:For immediate release
Priests’ association pledges support for U.S. bishops on retreat:
Offering prayer, fasting, and pleading for bishops to listen to the hurting
As the U.S. bishops gather for a retreat at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago in early January, they have a pledge of “personal support through prayer and fasting” from the 1,200 priest members and 157 friends of the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests. The priests ask the bishops to be “listening to them” and “responding to their concerns.”
The bishops are struggling to respond to the sex abuse crisis which first focused attention on priests and deacons, and now includes bishops themselves. Matters at hand include allegations of sexual abuse of minors, sexual misconduct with or sexual harassment of adults, and negligence in handling such cases.
The AUSCP letter, sent December 10 to each bishop, quoted the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who said, “Priests today are hurting and are experiencing a trauma over the abuse crisis. They are looking to you to be a father and brother who will listen . . . . Listening to them and sustaining them is essential to responding to their concerns . . . .”
During their annual November conference, at the request of Pope Francis, the bishops put on hold their efforts such as a measure to establish a separate commission predominantly comprised of lay men and women to independently investigate allegations against bishops, until a world-wide meeting at the Vatican in February. During the conference, the bishops announced plans for the January retreat, which will include Masses, conferences, opportunities for confession, and periods of silence.
In the letter the priests ask the bishops “to include in your contemplation, prayer, and any proposed actions that might arise from your retreat, the eight observations articulated by one of your longtime associates for justice, John Carr,” the AUSCP letter continued. Until his retirement in 2012, Carr was executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the USCCB. The summary titles of his observations, published in America,October 15, were included in the letter, as follows:
1. There are not enough parents in the room when decisions are made.
2. Lay people need to be much more involved—but need to be independent and focused on the needs of the vulnerable, not the protection of the institution or the care of perpetrators.
3. Many bishops are isolated, surrounded by people who reinforce their judgments. Institutional protection, isolation and lack of connection to the anguish of survivors and their families have often led to a lack of empathy, urgency and action.
4. There have to be independent, credible and effective ways for bishops to be reported, investigated and held accountable for their behaviors, abuse of power, actions and non-actions with regard to sexual abuse.
5. Institutional protection and clericalism can blind us to protecting the vulnerable. Beware of those who seem to use the suffering of survivors to settle scores or to advance their own ideological agendas, left or right, or opposition to Pope Francis.
6. Defending past choices is no substitute for owning and personally apologizing for past actions that harmed the vulnerable.
7. Silence in the face of attacks may be spiritually defensible but is pastorally harmful.
8. Silence makes things worse and is not an option for any of us.
These observations are “practical and necessary,” according to the AUSCP letter, signed by association chair, Rev. Bernard “Bob” Bonnot.
Contact Rev. Bernard “Bob” Bonnot, firstname.lastname@example.org, (330) 397-1257
Sr. Jacquelyn Doepker, OSF, Executive Secretary, email@example.com, (872) 205-5862