Saint Mary's Responds:
An Update from Fr. Renninger Concerning the Clergy Abuse Scandal
Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep" (John 10:11). When he spoke these words, Jesus was inviting us to listen to his voice and trust his ability to heal us. Jesus was inviting us to follow him, because his leadership will always bring us closer to the heart of the Father.
In recent weeks, we have been horrified by the headlines concerning the clergy abuse scandals. It seems that we receive new revelations on a daily basis, bringing new waves of revulsion, sadness, anger and concern. This kind of news can shake the faith of dedicated believers. This kind of news makes it hard for us to respond to neighbors who ask us hard questions about our Church. This kind of news forces us to once again inquire: who is working to assist the victims, and who will insure that children and young people are safe?
This kind of news convinces us that many of the ordained men who were supposed to be 'shepherds' in the Church were clearly NOT following the example of Jesus. Apparently, these very flawed shepherds have allowed lives to be destroyed, crimes to be committed, and the fabric of faith to be torn apart.
These are hard days, indeed.
Last weekend, I made some comments after Communion at each of our celebrations of the Eucharist. In those comments, I suggested that the ordained men of the Church need to stop talking, and start listening. You have questions that need to be asked. You have insights that should be shared, concerns that need to be voiced, and a righteous anger that must be listened to.
Here at Saint Mary's we are listening to the Holy Spirit, seeking to create a Christ-centered response to the current scandals.
As a first step, we are planning a series of listening sessions. Parishioners will be invited to participate in these sessions, so that an honest dialog can begin. These sessions will be facilitated by professionals who will insure that everyone is heard, and everyone has a chance to speak. At these sessions, I will be present primarily to listen. I want to find out what your questions and concerns are. I want to hear you.
Based on what we hear in these sessions, the parish staff will work with experts in a variety of fields to create further opportunities for us to learn, to act, and to work for justice and healing.
Within the next week, I will communicate detailed information about the schedule for our listening sessions. I'll also share with you the practical details about how to sign up for one of those sessions.
In recent days, significant announcements concerning this scandal have been made by Pope Francis, the Bishops of the United States, and by Bishop Knestout. If you would like to read those statements, click on the links below.
In the meantime, I invite all of us to stay focused on Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd. He is always willing to lead those who are willing to listen to him. In the days ahead, let us pray for all those who are victims of abuse, whoever they are, wherever they may be. Let us pray for families who bear the pain of abuse. May the Good Shepherd show us how to act with justice, and how to transform our Church so that it may more fully reflect the love of Jesus.
Peace to you.
Fr. Michael Renninger