Hi everyone, this is my homily for FEBRUARY 17, 2019 – the 6th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME. The readings for today’s Mass can be found HERE This is sadly, another reflection on the evil that has been done by priests and bishops of the Catholic Church (a list of previous posts on this crisis appears at the bottom of this post) I’m grateful for the many, many good people of God who deserve far better than what they’ve had to deal with. Thanks as always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week – God Bless – Fr Jim. Audio: Also you can get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2
There’s something about the Catholic priesthood that differentiates it from every other denomination, profession, or occupation. We believe that there is but one priest – that is Jesus Christ – and those ordained as ministerial priests share His priesthood.
In the most sacred of sacramental moments, we believe that the priest stands in the person of Christ. So when a person goes to confession, it’s Jesus who absolves the person’s sins… at Mass, it’s Jesus who shares His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. The ministerial priest has been called to conform themselves to Christ, to lay down their lives for Christ and His people so that he can be Christ in these sacramental moments. But the expectation is that every priest would, outside of those moments, live lives that reflect that sharing of Jesus’ priesthood.
I still think back to the many great priests who figure so largely in my heart and memory throughout my entire life – who somehow demonstrated Christ’s presence to me, my family, the parish I grew up in. Who’s example helped encourage the faith of countless numbers of people and at least personally I can attest to helped nourish my own vocation.
Which is why it’s been so devastating to come to terms with the reality that far too many weren’t so fortunate… Worse than that, to recognize that so many people were hurt, betrayed, suffered at the hands of those who were consecrated for service to the Lord and His people. Which is something that, sadly, once again, we came face to face with this past week. On Wednesday the Archdiocese of Newark, and all the other diocese’s of the state of New Jersey publically announced the names of close to 200 priests who since 1940 have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. This followed with news Saturday Morning, that Theodore McCarrick, who had been the Archbishop of Newark for 14 years was found guilty by the Vatican of committing gross abuses of sexual abuse and abuse of power. Having already been forced to resign as a cardinal this past summer when those allegations first came to light, and ordered not to publicly present himself anywhere in terms of ministry, Rome took the final, definitive and severe step yesterday to laicize him – meaning that he’s been dismissed as a priest.
I’ve prayed with this all week and tried to reflect on what to say or do, my mind and heart went in a lot of different directions. But I finally came to this point… Today, I’m not going to share with you the extreme range of emotions that I’m experiencing because it’s more important that I try to be the priest Jesus has called me to be. Which means that, for right now I have to recognize and own that, brother priests have done such things – and other brother priests and Bishops have inflicted more pain and hurt by their lack or response or horrific response. There’s a tremendous amount of painful things to face, to confront once again. And as much as I want to simply point to all of them as “other” and disassociate, distance myself from them as far as possible – more than I can express right now – spiritually I recognize it’s hard to do that. Priests aren’t just colleagues or fellow employees. And I think that reality is what makes it so much harder for many people in the pews (and those who because of their understandable hurt no longer even walk into these doors anymore): to not distrust all priests. The horrific acts of some priests have tainted all of us priests and Catholics.
Just as the original 12 apostles had to confront the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter and the other failures they had as the collective group of Jesus’ most intimate of disciples, his apostles… so must I, as a priest of Jesus Christ for the betrayals, the denials, the failures of those today. So I simply say:
I am sorry
I am sorry for the victims, those known and unknown, who suffered at the hands of brother priests.
I am sorry that these evil, horrific things have happened.
I am sorry that you were violated.
I am sorry that your innocence was taken.
I am sorry that your trust has been shattered.
I am sorry when you weren’t believed or were silenced.
I am sorry to the families of the victims
I am sorry for the evil that was visited to your homes by one who was ordained and sent by our Church to preach, to bless, to consecrate and instead will only be remembered for these horrific things they have done.
I am sorry for the division and tension and discord that these actions brought to all these homes and families and relationships.
I am sorry for the parishioners of all these parishes where these priests were assigned to – (Including a few who stood in this very pulpit). Just seeing the lists and imagining how many people were learning for the first time that Father so-and-so was on that list and the pain that must have caused you.
I am sorry for the burden this has placed on so many of you, God’s tremendously good and faithful people. Jesus has come to lighten burdens and so many of us priests have only made them worse… and I am profoundly sorry for that.
I am sorry for the doubts that this has caused so many people.
I am sorry that this has in any way eroded people’s faith.
I am sorry how all of this has in any way eclipsed God’s love, His Mercy, His presence in a world that so desperately needs and wants and is looking for it.
I am sorry for those who are going through whatever crisis of faith because of all of this right now. Those re-discerning their vocations; their even belonging as a member of Christ’s body, the Church.
The people of God deserve better than what has happened. And as a priest, I beg your forgiveness – which I recognize is something that only Jesus can offer instantly and completely… for us, it takes time, prayer and a desire for that to happen.
One final thought. In this Gospel reading, of the Beattitudes, very simply, Jesus proclaims out how intimately close He is with those who are poor, those who are in need, those who are suffering. He calls them Blessed because God sees and knows their needs. He knows the brokenness and sinfulness that caused these unjust situations and the selfishness and self-centeredness which continues these realities. They are blessed when the people suffering those realities don’t lose faith… They are blessed when they recognize that God has not abandoned them. They are blessed as Jeremiah said in the first reading “who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.”
My prayer is that this catastrophic crisis our Church is experiencing will be transformed by you, the people of God, who have suffered, but who’s faith recognizes Christ’s presence in our midst in spite of it all – who are able to dig deep in that trust and hope in Him alone – and help transform His Church once again.
— P.S.: As I shared on social media last night, I’m angered to have to devote preaching time to this evil in our midst once again. Below are previous posts from the last 8 months on this disgusting topic. My hope is that Christ’s light will continue to cast light on this and root it out: