Q. Fr. Chris, I appreciate your communication with us. My concern is that this crime continues because of silence and lack of action. If your silence means you are acting quietly then there is still hope. As for speaking out during homilies and in bulletins that would mean you have to attend mass……..the people that need to hear you the most….the victims in many cases have panic attacks at the mere mention of going to mass or seeing a priest. Thus the population that needs to hear what you have to say the most is despairing and a few even killed themselves. How are you reaching out to those that don’t come to you…..if you are not speaking out publicly?
A. Dear Beth, I am grateful for the insights shared by yourself and the many people who have posted comments on my last answer. In no way do I claim to have all the answers (this is the attitude that led us into much of this nightmare) so I am grateful for sharing in this ongoing conversation which allows me to learn from the experience and wisdom of others.
In regard to your comments/question, I feel that we need to clarify something. When you write that the “crime continues” which crime are you referring to? If the crime is the abuse of children, then in no case should a priest or any other person remain silent. This type of silence is inexcusable and immoral. This type of silence is certainly a crime that was committed by many priests over the years as they said nothing about what they knew was happening or at least suspected was happening.
If the crime is the coverup that seems to be have been orchestrated or at least allowed to unfold by the Archdiocese, then once again this type of silence is inexcusable. If people who worked for the Archdiocese (priest or laity) had knowledge that the crime of obstructing justice was being committed they too had the duty to speak out in defense of the victims. I do not believe that the vast majority of priests currently serving in the Archdiocese would fit into either of these “crimes” – I think that most, like myself, were and sadly are very ignorant about specifics in the majority of cases. If this is not the case (and I am open to being proven wrong on this), then I too believe these men should be brought to justice in some way (by the state or by the Church).
If you are using “crime” colloquially in reference to the fact that so many faithful Catholics are feeling like “sheep without a shepherd” because their priests are not offering guidance, consolation or expressing the outrage or anger that ought to be expressed at a time such as this then once again, I agree that this silence is a problem. You are correct that in the parishes where priests are talking about these issues, the voice is (praise God) being heard. However in many parishes that voice in absent. In the lives of most people (since the vast majority of Catholics do not attend Mass and accounting for all of the people in our society who are not Catholic, thus not at Mass either) this voice is not being heard. Thus is a grave problem (which would not be a problem is the Bishops were being the Bishops the people need them to be and I believe God wants them to be).
So to get to your question – how am I reaching out to all those who are looking for something? This blog is an obvious attempt at that very thing (again, not to offer “answers” but to offer ‘insights” from the perspective of one priest). In addition, I try to share my thoughts on this issue (and related issues) via social media like Facebook and Twitter (which reaches many non-Churchgoing folks). I know that the people of our area are longing to hear from the collective voice of the priests of the Archdiocese on these matters – yet, the priests are just not there yet (again, I can offer lots of reasons why, most of which would not satisfy many people).
I can tell you that a significant number of priests from the Archdiocese met for a second time this week to share their frustrations and hopes, to seek answers on what happened and why and to continue seeking the best way for us (as a group) to act. I shared with my brother priests your desire. Please pray for us as we continue to meet, talk, discern and strive to be the priests you want us to be and the priests God wants us to be for you and your families.
– Fr. Chris
Father Chris Walsh is Pastor of St. Raymond of Penafort Church in Northwest Philadelphia. Prior to this assignment, he served as School Minister at Archbishop Wood High School in Warminster and Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Ransom Parish in Northeast Philadelphia. Father Chris is originally from West Chester and is a graduate of Temple University. He firmly believes that the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church, even in these difficult days, and that the Catholic Church remains a true instrument of God’s grace in our broken world.