Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
Last Saturday night, we, the bishops of Milwaukee, joined with Arise Ministry to conduct a “Vigil of Reparation." This service of reparation called upon our Lord to assist us in repairing the deep damage caused by the sexual abuse of minors by clergy. At this moment, the need for reparation has been generated by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Report that investigated the activities of clergy within the dioceses of the state in regard to sexual abuse of minors over a 70-year period of time. The report was devastating. The majority of the activity took place before the establishment of the Dallas Charter (2002), but even one instance of an act committed by a priest is hurtful. During that same period, it was disclosed that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archbishop of Washington D.C., was a sexual predator, yet was not subject to the same scrutiny covering clergy under the Dallas Charter.
During the vigil, I wanted our Catholic faithful to know that I, like them, was angry, disgusted, ashamed, embarrassed and betrayed. These are natural feelings. One never expects to find sin in the Church. The consequences of any sin is always far reaching, but especially a sin as heinous as clergy sexual abuse of a child. Any level of trust is certainly damaged. When the action is attributed to a leader of the Church, all other leaders are questioned.
It was important for me to convey to our Catholic community that evening something about myself as a leader who is entrusted with their care. First, I am a believer. I believe in the teachings of the Church, and I know that I will be held accountable before God for my actions. Second, I love the Church. I don’t mean the structure. I mean all of my brothers and sisters who form the Body of Christ and His presence in the world. Christ established this Church and sent the Holy Spirit to guide us in truth towards holiness. So, my sense of Church is family and, when my family hurts, I hurt. Lastly, I know that our Lord will not abandon us in our time of need. It is his promise to us that he will be with us until the end of time. Our only hope is that Christ will assist us in our healing.
The brave victims who have come forward have already helped us to become a different Church. It is our responsibility to Christ and to them to always be vigilant, especially in the area of sexual abuse of a minor. Silence in the face of sin and crime keeps the Church in darkness and does harm. It is only the light that can dispel the darkness of evil.
As more of these investigations of other dioceses occur within the Church, I am sure we will see more of these type of disclosures. It is not easy to read about these, but we will face it together as a Church, and, with confidence, call upon our Lord to assist us in our reform. Our power as a Church is experienced as we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the September 18, 2018 "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. If you are interested in signing up for these email messages, please click here.