In a lengthy letter posted last Friday, August 31st, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas addressed the grand jury report from Pennsylvania, outlined responses to the current crisis, remarked on progress that has been made in reporting and handling instances of clerical abuse, gave a detailed defense of Catholic teaching on the priesthood and marriage, and concluded with a strong call to bishops to “renew our determination to strive to be shepherds who follow the example of Jesus, the good shepherd.” Below are some excerpts.
On the allegations and findings about Abp. McCarrick:
This rightly shocked and angered Catholics of the United States. Understandably, it shook their confidence in their bishops. It has prompted many questions and concerns. How was it possible for McCarrick to advance in the leadership ranks of the church? Who knew what and when?
Understandably, many Catholics are angry, confused and saddened by this. Many are asking questions: Did we not go through all of this 15 years ago? Has nothing been done? Don’t the bishops get it? Many are tired and ashamed of hearing bad news about the church they love. For others, this is all new. In 2002, they were too young or not paying attention to these issues within the church. Confronted with these questions and concerns, what are we to do?
On the need for prayer:
Our first response to any personal, familial or — in this case — church crisis should be to pray. Be assured that I am not suggesting that is the only thing we need or can do, but I believe it must be our first response. First and foremost, we must pray for healing and comfort for victims. Secondly, this is a moment to pray for the purification of bishops, priests and the entire church.
On accountability among bishops and the testimony of Abp. Viganó:
It is inconceivable to me that the bishops who were involved with the settlements for McCarrick’s misconduct did not bring these matters to the papal nuncio (the Holy Father’s ambassador to the United States) and the nuncios failed to inform the pope at that time and those who assisted him with the care of bishops.
Just this past week, the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Vigano, released a statement that claims he and his predecessors, Archbishop Pietro Sambi and Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo (both now deceased), did inform the respective popes. In my experience of Archbishop Vigano during his tenure as apostolic nuncio, he was a man of integrity. There are also respected sources that are contesting elements of Archbishop Vigano’s statement.
This development makes it even more imperative that we embrace Cardinal DiNardo’s commitment to pursue the truth of why McCarrick was allowed to continue to exercise public ministry and continue in the College of Cardinals, when his sexual misconduct and abuse of power were already known. We must do all that we can to ascertain the truth and then allow the chips to fall where they may.
On conversion and the matter of homosexuality:
This is a moment for conversion and renewal of the entire church, but especially for bishops and priests. The only way forward for renewal is to acknowledge and confess our past sins, as well as to make a firm purpose of amendment not to repeat them.
Both the Pennsylvania grand jury report and the earlier national study by John Jay College commissioned by the U.S. bishops in the wake of the 2002 scandal reveal that a high percentage of victims of clergy sexual misconduct were postpubescent males. In other words, much of the misconduct involved homosexual acts. We cannot ignore this reality.
Pope Emeritus Benedict gave guidance to seminaries and vocation ministries regarding the nonacceptance for priestly formation those with deep-seated homosexual tendencies. All candidates for the seminary have to be able to give evidence for their capacity of living celibate chastity with both integrity and joy.
On priesthood, celibacy, and homosexuality:
It is not enough for those seeking ordination to the priesthood to accept reluctantly celibacy as a necessary burden to become a priest. If our heart is not into embracing the challenges and beauty of celibacy with joy, then we are setting ourselves up for failure and wounding our people.
Nor is it sufficient for priests to live celibacy faithfully, but not be able to teach with conviction and enthusiasm Catholic sexual morality as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Our Catholic understanding of human sexuality is beautiful and guides those who embrace it to the path to authentic love and happiness. The priest needs to be able to articulate, in a convincing and compelling way, why heterosexual intimacy outside of the marital covenant is gravely immoral, as well as why homosexual activity is also always seriously sinful.
On reasons for the current crisis and the responsibility of the bishops:
The reason for this current crisis is not primarily one of individual weakness, but failures of the accountability of bishops. We, bishops, are sinners in need of God’s mercy. The Gospels reveal the frailty of the apostles — the first bishops. By every human measurement, they were unqualified to accomplish the mission Jesus had entrusted to them — namely, to make disciples of all nations.
The Gospel narrative is strewn with examples of the apostles being slow learners, possessing unhealthy ambition, exhibiting jealous rivalry, succumbing to cowardice, abandoning and even denying Jesus in the face of danger. Our Lord prefers to use the weak in accomplishing his mission to make clear that the fruits realized are the results of God’s power, not the wisdom or talents of the church’s ministers. I certainly fit the profile of being a very weak and frail instrument.
This is not a moment for any of us to allow ourselves to yield to natural feelings of discouragement and despair. It is an occasion for all of us to recommit ourselves to living lives of integrity.
For me and my brother bishops, it is a time to renew our determination to strive to be shepherds who follow the example of Jesus, the good shepherd. Please pray for me and my brother bishops as we seek to make structural reforms that will ensure greater accountability on our part.
Jesus tells his disciples his yoke is easy and his burden is light — not because what he asks of us is not difficult, but because Our Lord promises to shoulder the yoke and carry the burden with us as we strive to follow him. Our confidence is not in ourselves, but in the fidelity of his promises to be with us until the end of time and to send the Holy Spirit to guide his church.
Read the entire letter on The Leaven site.
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