Aug 22, 2018
I know the answer is Jesus Christ. Hope is found in the dying and rising of Jesus. The day of restoration and renewal will happen through the mercy of Jesus and our full cooperation in the work of the Redemption of Jesus Christ. I can also hear Jesus saying, “I’ve got this.”
For the past five years, in a more intense way — the first revelations go back to the 1980s and 1990s — Catholics in the state of Minnesota have been exposed to the sins of the Church’s priests and bishops. Now the Church in Pennsylvania and across the nation has had to look at the horrendous sin of sexual abuse of minors and the failures of the Church in protecting the people of God, yet again.
When it comes the crime of the abuse of minors, our hearts break open as sordid details call for independent investigations and the work of very trusted lay faithful to assist the bishops within the Church to remedy the problems. In the tumult, we must never lose our focus of providing healing for the victims and help for those who have been hurt and preventing this sin in the future.We need to name the shame, anger, and sadness. The sexual abuse of minors, episcopal failures, cover-ups and enabling behaviors, homosexual subcultures in the priesthood, and sins against celibacy must be confessed, rooted out, and repaired. To quote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, “We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report.”
Our experience of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Diocese of Duluth is unique to us in some ways, but the underlying sinful human condition is universal and will be brought to light across our nation and our world. While we have been living with the crisis most recently through our bankruptcy, we have to be spiritually prepared for whatever new revelations may come to light in other parts of the Body of Christ, as well. This purification, although excruciatingly painful, is necessary for healing. The light of Christ scatters the darkness of sin and evil.
The Scriptures that come to mind for me are: “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:2), the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-8). These and other sacred texts provide ample reflection for my personal conversion and institutional change.
I have said that the protection of our youth and providing the safest environment for our young people is the work of our lifetime. I know our efforts in the Diocese of Duluth have made a difference. As a diocese we will continue to offer prayers for healing and reparation. I ask the clergy, religious, and lay faithful to pray and fast so as to lead the Church to enact canonical changes that hold bishops accountable, protect men discerning a call to the priesthood, and lead to new mechanisms of holding bishops accountable that have never been in place before to safeguard our children and restore trust.
I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what I and my fellow bishops have done or failed to do. I am sorry for anyone who has been hurt and the scandal caused in the Body of Christ.
Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.