Five things for Catholics to keep in mind regarding the Independent Review

Denver Catholic Staff

When the three Colorado dioceses entered into an agreement with the Colorado attorney general to conduct an independent review of all files related to the sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests, there was a commitment by all of the bishops to get everything out in the open in a spirit of transparency.

This means that horrible details of past sins by priests would be made public. Indeed, parts of the Independent Review are very hard to read and may leave the faithful feeling discouraged, angry, sad or hurt.

No matter what you may feel as you read through the report, there are a few important things we as Catholics need to keep in mind.

1.  It’s appropriate to feel hurt or anger.

While much of this report had already been disclosed, seeing the details from 70 years assembled in one place makes it especially terrible to read. We are certainly appalled, incensed and devastated by the incidents of abuse in the report and this horrible history ­— and no one in the current Church is making any excuses for what happened back then. The pain caused to the innocent can never be forgotten no matter how long ago it occurred in the past.

2. Our hearts are with the survivors.

Our primary concern is for those who were harmed — while no apology is sufficient, we are truly sorry on behalf of the Church and hope that we can assist in the healing process. We hope the independent reparations program will encourage others to come forward for healing.

3. We can always do better and must never get complacent.

We are committed to continuing to improve our response to all allegations — while we know we have made great strides and been able to help many people, nevertheless we will implement the recommendations in the report and we will learn from those who came forward and felt they weren’t treated appropriately.

4. Our culture has changed — thanks to many of you.

We are thankful for the tens of thousands of people who have made the commitment to ensure our children are safe and that the Archdiocese is a community where sexual abuse of minors will not be tolerated. Their work and continuing vigilance is one of the primary reasons that there has not been a substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor by a diocesan priest in 20 years.

5. Support your priests.

We are grateful to our current priests — they have carried the cross for sins they didn’t commit, and humbly served while under the scornful eye of society. It’s important for everyone to know that the report found no substantiated allegations against any of our diocesan priests currently in ministry. Together we will persevere, rebuild trust within our community, and become stronger as we serve and love the Kingdom of God.

COMING UP: St. Benedict’s wisdom for our times 

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“Let us get up then, at last, for the Scriptures rouse us,” the Rule of St. Benedict urges us. “Let us open our eyes to the light … and our ears to the voice from heaven that every day calls out. … ‘If you hear his voice today, do not harden your hearts’” (Ps 95:8). On July 11 the Church observes the memorial of St. Benedict, and his words from 1,500 years ago seem perfectly fitting for our challenging and changing times.

The Rule of St. Benedict was written some time around 530, a time when the Roman Empire had collapsed and Christianity’s existence in Europe was threatened. Given our current cultural situation and its parallels with his time, I believe we can find fruit in St. Benedict’s teachings.

Saint Benedict grew up surrounded by a culture that was morally corrupt but with the grace of God lived a virtuous life. After spending some time in Rome for studies, he fled its moral decadence to pursue a more solitary life. St. Benedict lived the life of a hermit for several years before he eventually founded several monasteries, which became centers of prayer, manual labor and learning.

St. Benedict begins his rule by urging the monks to “Listen carefully to the master’s instructions and attend to them with the ear of your heart” (Rule, Prologue 1). For us, this means establishing a daily time to listen to the Lord, both in reading the Scriptures and in conversational prayer and meditation.

Our sure foundation during these trying times should be God’s will for each of us, not the constantly changing messages that bombard us in the news or on social media. For some, every online trend has become a form of gospel that must be adhered to with religious conviction. But the faith handed down to us from the Apostles is the only true Gospel, and only it can save souls. Although the times and technology were different, St. Benedict understood the importance of listening to “the master’s instructions.”

In his book, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, the preacher of the Papal Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, addresses the need for priests to arm themselves for battle “with the world rulers of this present darkness” (cf. Jn 10:12). At the heart of his reflection is the insight that “Jesus freed himself from Satan by an act of total obedience to the Father’s will, once and for all handing over his free will to him, so that he could truly say, ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me’” (Jn 4:34, The Holy Spirit in the Life of Jesus, p. 36).

The question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I put the Father’s will first in my life in every decision I make and in all that I say and do?” If we place the Father’s will at the center of our lives and truly listen to him with “the ears of our hearts” as St. Benedict taught, we will be prepared for whatever happens and always give witness to the love of God and others. We live in a world that has removed God from culture. History, both salvation history and world history, shows clearly what happens when this occurs. When God is removed, something else becomes “god.” Societies decline and eventually fall and disappear unless they return to the true God and become cultures that promote a life of holiness and virtue.

There is at least one additional lesson from St. Benedict’s rule that is applicable in these times of societal disunity and division. The monks and sisters of the Benedictine spiritual family are known for their hospitality. The Rule teaches this virtue in this way: “All guests who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ, for he himself will say: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’ (Mt 25:35). Proper honor must be shown to all, especially to those who share our faith (Gal 6:10) and to pilgrims” (Rule, #53).

Let us make it our prayer to be able to see others as Christ himself coming to us, even if they are clothed in what St. Mother Teresa called, “the distressing disguise of the poor.” If we continually seek the will of the Father and ask in prayer for our hearts and will to be conformed to his, then we will be able to weather any challenge.