The Church needs the Spirit of Truth

Archbishop Aquila

During these tumultuous days for the Church, I have been praying that the Spirit of Truth descends upon every disciple in the Church, including the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, those in consecrated life and the laity.

I have said to the Lord, “I don’t care how messy it gets, as long as the truth prevails. Purify the heart and conscience, O Lord, of every disciple with your Spirit of Truth, so they will seek to follow only your will, Father… That every disciple may come to know you, love you and serve you alone!”

The revelations about Archbishop McCarrick’s sexual sins and infidelity, and those who enabled him, have been extremely disheartening. The Church must not give in to the temptation of hiding, which was the reaction Adam and Eve had when they sinned. Only when one brings one’s sin into the light, does one experience the unconditional mercy and love of Jesus. Hiding communicates to God, ‘I really do not trust your love and mercy for me, you cannot heal me, or set me free from the slavery of my sin,’ or, ‘I do not want to let go of my sin.’

Jesus teaches us, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31-32). He teaches us that we can know the truth, and in knowing the truth we will be set free from everything that is not of him. In our encounter with Jesus, we come to know his love, mercy and truth for he himself is the “way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6).

For the sake of the truth being known, I recently joined Cardinal DiNardo and the Executive Committee of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference in calling for the Holy See to conduct a thorough investigation into the Archbishop McCarrick situation, including the involvement of a lay committee with the authority from Rome to carry out an independent investigation.

These horrible actions should never have happened, whether we are talking about the unthinkable crime of abusing minors, or the abuse of power by cardinals, bishops or priests over a long period of time.

When it comes to protecting children, I want to assure the people of northern Colorado that the archdiocese has been and continues to be rigorous in its efforts to protect minors and help those who have been harmed in the past.

In 1991, more than 10 years before the USCCB adopted the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to respond to the clergy sexual abuse crisis within the Church, Archbishop Stafford instituted a mandatory reporting policy. He met with law enforcement and pledged his cooperation in any instance where there is a crime in the Church. As a result, for the last 27 years the archdiocese has had a positive relationship with law enforcement and social services and has consistently reported allegations of childhood sexual abuse it receives to the proper authorities. Archbishop Stafford also created a conduct response team, which was years ahead of when the practice became standard after the Charter. This conduct response team has always been comprised of dedicated professionals (including lay members) who advise me and are available for victims to meet, get them support they need, and help with the healing process.

Beyond these fundamental steps—which are still in place today—the archdiocese has also focused on how to help victims heal as its primary mission in addressing this issue. For example, beginning in 2005, a number of victims came forward publicly alleging abuse in the 1950s-early 1980s by five priests, all of whom were deceased. The archdiocese announced a groundbreaking and unique program—an independent outreach panel comprised of professionals, including a judge, a rehabilitation specialist and a police lieutenant. This panel provided those with legitimate claims of childhood sexual abuse the financial means to seek healing. Archbishop Chaput urged all victims of abuse by anyone affiliated with the archdiocese to come forward and meet with the independent panel. He made clear that attorneys for the archdiocese would not be present and that this was not part of litigation but instead was intended to be a ministry of the Church, in recognition of the wrongs done to these victims. The archbishop also offered to
meet with victims personally. More than 50 victims received compensation after this program was announced and this work was concluded by 2010.

The work of Cardinal Stafford, Archbishop Chaput and me, now that I am the steward of this archdiocese, is focused on protecting children. Above all, the archdiocese has for decades maintained a zero-tolerance policy towards credible accusations of sexual abuse by priests and laity who are affiliated with the archdiocese. While incidents of sexual abuse will always exist in society, the archdiocese remains active in enforcing its policies and longstanding zero-tolerance approach.

Besides working to prevent abuse, the archdiocese is committed to praying for the victims who have suffered from the sins of cardinals, bishops, priests or any other Church employee. For this reason, I invite anyone who would like to pray for the healing of these wounds to join me at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception for Masses of reparation on Sept. 9, Oct. 7 at 10:30 a.m., and on Nov. 7 and Dec. 7 at 5:30 p.m. I have also asked every priest in the archdiocese to publicize and offer a monthly Mass for the healing of victims of abuse by clergy members and any others in society. When one sees that in the general population 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of sexual abuse, it is clear there is much to pray for!

May our Blessed Mother intercede for all those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy members and guide the Church in these trying times. May the Spirit of Truth fill every disciple of Jesus and lead us to the truth of his love and mercy, setting us free of all deceit and lies, so that our wills may be conformed to the will of the Father!

Pray, my dearest brothers and sisters, for the Spirit of Truth to descend upon every member of the Church, for your prayer is powerful when it is grounded in trust and confidence in the promises of Jesus and the love of the Father!

For more in-depth information on abuse prevention measures in the Archdiocese of Denver, visit: https://denvercatholic.org/qa-on-clergy-misconduct-and-abuse-of-power/

COMING UP: Archbishop Aquila supports USCCB Executive Committee’s call for independent investigation

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Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila has issued the following letter expressing his support for USCCB President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo’s and the Executive Committee’s call for an independent investigation in the wake of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano’s testimony released earlier this week:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Many of you are aware that this past weekend the former papal representative to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, released a testimony that makes serious allegations about the Archbishop McCarrick abuse case.

In my interactions with Archbishop Vigano I have found him to be a man of deep faith and integrity. I join Cardinal DiNardo and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Executive Committee in calling for the Holy See to conduct a thorough investigation that includes granting authority to a lay commission to examine the many questions that surround Archbishop McCarrick, such as who was involved in covering-up his gravely immoral behavior or failed to act to stop it.

As Cardinal DiNardo said on August 27, “The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.”

While righteous anger, deep frustration, and deep sorrow are understandable, and my heart breaks for the victims of abuse as well as for you that you must suffer this trial, we must all “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ the perfecter of faith.” He is our strength! He is the truth who will set us free!

Jesus asks each of us, “Who are you going to serve?” Will it be the Lord, or the false gods of today – power, careerism, entitlement, sexual promiscuousness, and so many others? While we are in the world, we are not of the world and we are called to be of Christ alone, deepening our closeness to him in the sacramental life of the Church!

The call to holiness is real and possible, as Jesus tells us, “for God all things are possible!” Yet, when we let the ways of the world form us rather than the Gospel and Jesus, when we put more trust in the world than in Jesus, we end up where we are today. While, this is not the first time in the history of the Church that she has been rocked by a lack of faith and immorality among her clergy, as history teaches, only a strong return to Jesus Christ and his ways will heal the horrific sinful breach that has taken place!

The Gospel reading from John 6 last Sunday presents us with Jesus’ challenging question after he taught about his Real Presence in the Eucharist. He asked Peter and the other disciples: “Do you also want to leave?” Peter responded with his great statement of faith that gets to the heart of the matter. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

We must pray for a deep faith in Jesus Christ, one that grows and deepens each day. We must live our lives in intimacy with Jesus, the Holy One of God! It is Jesus who will see us through this time of trial and purification, who will help us to live out the Beatitudes and be faithful to the commandments.

Know, my brothers and sisters, that you are in my prayers. Know that I am deeply grateful to you for your fidelity. I pray that your hearts and the heart of every disciple may be ever more conformed to the heart of Christ!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop Aquila

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

“In communion with the Holy Father, I join the Executive Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in taking upon ourselves his exhortation, ‘this open wound [of abuse] challenges us to be firm and decisive in the pursuit of truth and justice.’

“On August 1st, I promised that USCCB would exercise the full extent of its authority, and would advocate before those with greater authority, to pursue the many questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. On August 16th, I called for an Apostolic Visitation, working in concert with a national lay commission granted independent authority, to seek the truth.  Yesterday, I convened our Executive Committee once again, and it reaffirmed the call for a prompt and thorough examination into how the grave moral failings of a brother bishop could have been tolerated for so long and proven no impediment to his advancement.

“The recent letter of Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò brings particular focus and urgency to this examination. The questions raised deserve answers that are conclusive and based on evidence. Without those answers, innocent men may be tainted by false accusation and the guilty may be left to repeat sins of the past.

“I am eager for an audience with the Holy Father to earn his support for our plan of action. That plan includes more detailed proposals to: seek out these answers, make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier, and improve procedures for resolving complaints against bishops. Inspired by his recent letter to the people of God, and his motu proprio of two years ago, As a Loving Mother, I am confident Pope Francis shares our desire for greater effectiveness and transparency in the matter of disciplining bishops. We renew our fraternal affection for the Holy Father in these difficult days.

“To the survivors of abuse and the families who have lost a loved one to abuse, I am sorry. You are no longer alone. Since 2002, hundreds of professionally trained staff across the country have been working with the Church to support survivors and prevent future abuse.  Nationwide, the Church has a zero-tolerance policy toward priests and deacons who abuse, safe environment training, background checks for those working around children, victim assistance coordinators, prompt reporting to civil authorities, and lay review boards in dioceses.

“In other ways, we have failed you. This is especially true for adults being sexually harassed by those in positions of power, and for any abuse or harassment perpetrated by a bishop. We will do better. The more she is buffeted by storms, the more I am reminded that the Church’s firm foundation is Jesus Christ. The failures of men cannot diminish the light of the Gospel. Lord, by the help of your mercy, show us the way to salvation.”