Join me on Friday, October 5. I will make that day a day of fasting and prayer, concluding with a 6 p.m. prayer service, open to the public, at Holy Family Church. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of Saint Mark chapter 9, verse 29 that only through prayer and fasting can acts of great evil from the evil one be banished. Speaking after expelling the devil from a possessed person, he gave these directions to his disciples — fast and pray.
Surely, the events that have come to light require these steps as we eradicate the evil from the Church, which is the Body of Jesus Christ alive in our midst. The crimes and misdeeds revealed in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and the terrible pattern of Archbishop McCarrick’s violation of chastity and abuse of power, along with the lack of response from church authorities, call for an investigation and decisive action. While many of the abuses may have occurred decades ago, what is clear from the report is that the trauma and scars of victim/survivors is real to this day. I have received letters from those who were abused many years ago by a priest or representative of the church. Their wounds are deep, and the recent news reports have opened these wounds once again. Their pain must move our hearts to solidarity and repentance. No child should ever be subjected to abuse, particularly by someone whose task it is to nurture a child’s faith.
I ask your prayers for me as your Archbishop to act with wisdom, courage and humility. Pray that together we will take the steps necessary against this presence of the evil one in our midst. The steps that have been taken in the Archdiocese of Louisville since the development of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” are now as essential as ever. The recent audit reported in “The Record” gives each of us, beginning with me, the imperative to continue to reach out to those who are victim/survivors and to continue our vigilance about the safeguards we have put in place to protect all.
On the national level, actions should include an independent review of events surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, clear paths to report misconduct or abuse by bishops and advocacy and assurances for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops.
Local actions include renewed vigor in deepening the safe environment we have begun to build over these fifteen years. We also are preparing a report to the Catholic people summarizing what has taken place in our own Archdiocese and how we have responded. Look for this to be published in October. For my part, I will continue to seek Christ’s grace to act with integrity, guided by the archdiocesan policies in place and working closely with the Archdiocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board, comprised primarily of lay experts. Building on our robust tradition of lay ecclesial ministry and leadership, I will continue to ensure the growth of lay contributions to our local structures of participation, consultation, oversight and administration. Further, I will seek to foster in my own life and among our priests faithfulness to Christ in virtue and in service — not clerical privilege, but sacred promises made at our ordinations.
In my last column, I spoke of the dialogue that I have had at previously scheduled meetings with priests, lay leaders and lay faithful. I listened to their hurt, anger and confusion and sought their advice and wisdom. I also shared with them how this experience has brought sadness and confusion to my heart, along with my conviction that we will — together — move through this to a better day.
One clear direction I heard was to turn humbly to Jesus Christ to ask forgiveness for any harm done at the hands of those in positions of trust within the Church, whether bishops, priests, deacons, women and men religious or lay leaders. October 5 will provide a concrete and public day for this purpose, and I invite you to join with me in your homes, your parishes or at Holy Family Church. No corrective steps that are taken by the Universal Church, by the Church throughout the United States or within the Archdiocese of Louisville will give a lasting solution to this evil unless they are taken with the humility, wisdom and courage that only Jesus Christ can give.
Pray with me that the concrete actions mentioned above will be empowered by our prayer and fasting together — made real on Friday, October 5th.