Dear Friend in Christ,
With the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which came on the heels of the revelations into the “double life” of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, and now, allegations against Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., I have felt it necessary and important to be with the people of the Archdiocese to pray with you and to process this with you. To that end, the auxiliary bishops and I have been celebrating Masses throughout the Archdiocese these past weeks and meeting with people as they leave church.
We’ve had meetings with the priests and deacons of the Archdiocese, with our school leaders and their teachers, and we also asked principals and pastors to bring some of their staff or parishioners to a series of regional discussions, so that the faithful, too, have a chance to engage in these difficult but necessary conversations about how together we can make the Church a better, safer and more holy institution.
Many Catholics, you among them, may be bewildered and angry. As this crisis has deepened, people are demanding action, and action now. You rightly ask what will be done, what will be different, and what is in place to prevent such terrible things from happening again. Unfortunately, it will take time for the Bishops of the United States and the Vatican to get to the bottom of troubling questions and to agree on a plan of action – but just like you, I want to get it done right and done quickly. And just last week that process began with a meeting between Pope Francis and the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
I expect the fruits of those conversations will be the subject of our deliberations in November when the bishops of the United States gather in Baltimore to vote on the reforms we so badly need. And your wisdom and input, be assured, will be represented during those discussions.
I vow to continue cooperating – fully and transparently – with all levels of law enforcement in Maryland. I shall always reach out to victims of abuse, and offer them assistance, whether or not it is mandated by law. I pledge also to continue the longstanding practice of updating the list of offending priests that was first posted on the Archdiocesan website beginning in 2002. I shall also continue taking direction from the Independent Lay Review Board in the ongoing work of strengthening Archdiocesan policies and practices designed to protect young people and to root out from our midst any representative of the Church – cleric or lay – who may pose a threat to the innocent and vulnerable.
That said, we have a long way to go. I have dealt with the painfully ugly specter of sexual abuse for a quarter-century. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that no policy, procedure or outreach undoes the pain of the victims of sexual abuse. And while no one can undo the past, neither can anyone in the Church ignore the tsunami of sexual abuse that harmed so many innocent victims.
So, how do we in this local Church respond? How do we help the Church to heal and move forward?
Because we were not able to invite everyone to the regional conversations we have already held, we are using MyParish app and Flocknote to facilitate conversations and solicit input from the wider archdiocesan community surrounding specific issues related to the abuse crisis. It is my hope that these tools will be useful beyond just the present crisis.
The plan is to have these ideas and suggestions flow up to a soon-to-be-formed lay Archdiocesan Pastoral Council which, I pray, will give the laity a greater voice and thus greater investment and confidence in the management of the diocese.
But conversation can’t be just one-way. You have heard enough from me. I want to hear from you. We want to hear from you. That’s why we are reaching out to you via this “virtual town hall.” We want your wisdom and your best thinking. It’s time for a new Church of Baltimore, guided by a collegial movement focused on an increased role for laity and greater accountability of bishops.
We have four questions upon which we want you to reflect. Each question will be sent in a separate message so that we can better organize the comments.
If you want to join the discussion and share your questions and concerns, click the blue Reply button below. If you wish for your comments to be private, check the «Private» box to leave a private reply; otherwise, your comment will be public for others to view.
Comments will be moderated. We won’t delete a comment simply because it might be something that is hard for us to hear. But we will delete comments that are vulgar or that attack a specific person. Please stay on topic and respond to the specific question asked.
We ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom in this process at a time of healing and redemption for our church. May God bless you.
Faithfully in Christ,
Most Reverend William E. Lori
Archbishop of Baltimore
Question 1 of 4: In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what are you most worried about? Reply
Question 2 of 4: In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what are you hopeful about? Reply
Question 3 of 4: In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, What is the main issue we are dealing with now? Reply
Question 4 of 4: In light of the crisis of sexual abuse within the Church, what is your best advice for practical steps to move forward? Reply