Action Item–September 4, 2018


Dear Friends,
As promised, I offer you here the beginning of my suggestions regarding the challenge I made to all of us in yesterday’s homily. I am placing it here and will put it on our website and Facebook so as to get as much circulation as possible. Feel free to share this with all your contacts. This comes from the Vatican website which you are all free to look at as well, simply type in Vatican website and you will get there.
When thinking about who to write, Robert and I thought, might be good to start at the top! So, a letter to the pope is an option. There is a whole section if you type in, “How to write a letter to the pope.” I will give you the highlights of that here. Evidently, Francis does respond to letters from time to time and even gives phone calls!  Key things to remember in writing to a pope:
1. Always be respectful–address him as “His Holiness” (address–
His Holiness, Pope Francis
Saint Martha House
00120 Citta del Vaticano
Vatican City (do not say Rome or Italy as Vatican City is a country onto itself)
The respect we show in writing is not just for the pope, but the office.
2. Be short and to the point–best chance of getting your letter read!
3. Read the letter below from the pope to the People of God (us) dated August 20, 2018. Briefly, he speaks about his deep sorrow for the abuse, that the clergy at all levels did not respond soon enough nor appropriately–the crimes committed will last a lifetime for those abused thus “no effort should be spared” to see that this never happens again. He names clericalism as something that must be changed.  He doesn’t not mention celibacy and it’s possible effects –our letters could ask that this issue be part of what is looked at! Again, be brief and to the point–first of all, we want the pope to read our letters!
So, my friends, this is enough for this mailing–more will follow to give you lots of options of things to do.  I would invite your prayers asking the guidance of the Spirit that you will do what is yours to do. All of us can pray, but it is my hope that we can put “pens to paper” as well!
Blessings on all of you,
Pastor Kathy
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) |
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26). These words of
Saint Paul forcefully echo in my heart as I acknowledge once more the suffering
endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse
of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated
persons. Crimes that inflict deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, primarily
among the victims, but also in their family members and in the larger community
of believers and nonbelievers alike. Looking back to the past, no effort to beg
pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient. Looking
ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent
such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being
covered up and perpetuated. The pain of the victims and their families is also our
pain, and so it is urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure
the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults.
1. If one member suffers…
In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at
least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of
conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years.
Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past,
nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the
victims. We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they
require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this
culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of
these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or
silenced. But their outcry was more powerful than all the measures meant to
silence it, or sought even to resolve it by decisions that increased its gravity by
falling into complicity. The Lord heard that cry and once again showed us on
which side he stands. Mary’s song is not mistaken and continues quietly to echo
throughout history. For the Lord remembers the promise he made to our fathers:
“he has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from
their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty” (Lk 1:51-53). We feel shame when we
realize that our style of life has denied, and continues to deny, the words we
With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we
were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner,
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis
realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.
We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them. I make my own the
words of the then Cardinal Ratzinger when, during the Way of the Cross
composed for Good Friday 2005, he identified with the cry of pain of so many
victims and exclaimed: “How much filth there is in the Church, and even among
those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to [Christ]! How much
pride, how much self-complacency! Christ’s betrayal by his disciples, their
unworthy reception of his body and blood, is certainly the greatest suffering
endured by the Redeemer; it pierces his heart. We can only call to him from the
depths of our hearts: Kyrie eleison – Lord, save us! (cf. Mt 8:25)” (Ninth Station).
2. … all suffer together with it
The extent and the gravity of all that has happened requires coming to grips with
this reality in a comprehensive and communal way. While it is important and
necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has
happened, in itself this is not enough. Today we are challenged as the People of
God to take on the pain of our brothers and sisters wounded in their flesh and in
their spirit. If, in the past, the response was one of omission, today we want
solidarity, in the deepest and most challenging sense, to become our way of
forging present and future history. And this in an environment where conflicts,
tensions and above all the victims of every type of abuse can encounter an
outstretched hand to protect them and rescue them from their pain (cf. Evangelii
Gaudium, 228). Such solidarity demands that we in turn condemn whatever
endangers the integrity of any person. A solidarity that summons us to fight all
forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption. The latter is “a comfortable
and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable:
deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for
‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14)” (Gaudete et
Exsultate, 165). Saint Paul’s exhortation to suffer with those who suffer is the
best antidote against all our attempts to repeat the words of Cain: “Am I my
brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9).
I am conscious of the effort and work being carried out in various parts of the
world to come up with the necessary means to ensure the safety and protection
of the integrity of children and of vulnerable adults, as well as implementing zero
tolerance and ways of making all those who perpetrate or cover up these crimes
accountable. We have delayed in applying these actions and sanctions that are
so necessary, yet I am confident that they will help to guarantee a greater
culture of care in the present and future.
Together with those efforts, every one of the baptized should feel involved in the
ecclesial and social change that we so greatly need. This change calls for a
personal and communal conversion that makes us see things as the Lord does.
For as Saint John Paul II liked to say: “If we have truly started out anew from
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis
the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see him especially in the faces of
those with whom he wished to be identified” (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 49). To
see things as the Lord does, to be where the Lord wants us to be, to experience
a conversion of heart in his presence. To do so, prayer and penance will help. I
invite the entire holy faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer
and fasting, following the Lord’s command.[1] This can awaken our conscience
and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of care that says “never
again” to every form of abuse.
It is impossible to think of a conversion of our activity as a Church that does not
include the active participation of all the members of God’s People. Indeed,
whenever we have tried to replace, or silence, or ignore, or reduce the People of
God to small elites, we end up creating communities, projects, theological
approaches, spiritualities and structures without roots, without memory, without
faces, without bodies and ultimately, without lives.[2] This is clearly seen in a
peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority, one common in many
communities where sexual abuse and the abuse of power and conscience have
occurred. Such is the case with clericalism, an approach that “not only nullifies
the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the
baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people”.[3]
Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an
excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the
evils that we are condemning today. To say “no” to abuse is to say an emphatic
“no” to all forms of clericalism.
It is always helpful to remember that “in salvation history, the Lord saved one
people. We are never completely ourselves unless we belong to a people. That is
why no one is saved alone, as an isolated individual. Rather, God draws us to
himself, taking into account the complex fabric of interpersonal relationships
present in the human community. God wanted to enter into the life and history
of a people” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 6). Consequently, the only way that we have
to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a
task regarding all of us as the People of God. This awareness of being part of a
people and a shared history will enable us to acknowledge our past sins and
mistakes with a penitential openness that can allow us to be renewed from
within. Without the active participation of all the Church’s members, everything
being done to uproot the culture of abuse in our communities will not be
successful in generating the necessary dynamics for sound and realistic change.
The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to
come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring
forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion. In this way, we will come up
with actions that can generate resources attuned to the Gospel. For “whenever
we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness
of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis
forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for
today’s world” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with
sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics,
and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those
most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.
An awareness of sin helps us to acknowledge the errors, the crimes and the
wounds caused in the past and allows us, in the present, to be more open and
committed along a journey of renewed conversion.
Likewise, penance and prayer will help us to open our eyes and our hearts to
other people’s sufferings and to overcome the thirst for power and possessions
that are so often the root of those evils. May fasting and prayer open our ears to
the hushed pain felt by children, young people and the disabled. A fasting that
can make us hunger and thirst for justice and impel us to walk in the truth,
supporting all the judicial measures that may be necessary. A fasting that shakes
us up and leads us to be committed in truth and charity with all men and women
of good will, and with society in general, to combatting all forms of the abuse of
power, sexual abuse and the abuse of conscience.
In this way, we can show clearly our calling to be “a sign and instrument of
communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen
Gentium, 1).
“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it”, said Saint Paul. By an
attitude of prayer and penance, we will become attuned as individuals and as a
community to this exhortation, so that we may grow in the gift of compassion, in
justice, prevention and reparation. Mary chose to stand at the foot of her Son’s
cross. She did so unhesitatingly, standing firmly by Jesus’ side. In this way, she
reveals the way she lived her entire life. When we experience the desolation
caused by these ecclesial wounds, we will do well, with Mary, “to insist more
upon prayer”, seeking to grow all the more in love and fidelity to the Church
(SAINT IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA, Spiritual Exercises, 319). She, the first of the
disciples, teaches all of us as disciples how we are to halt before the sufferings of
the innocent, without excuses or cowardice. To look to Mary is to discover the
model of a true follower of Christ.
May the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of conversion and the interior anointing
needed to express before these crimes of abuse our compunction and our
resolve courageously to combat them.
Vatican City, 20 August 2018
9/4/2018 Letter of His Holiness to the People of God (20 August 2018) | Francis