Fr. Andrew Strobl's Letter on the Crisis, St. John Paul II Parish
August 18, 2018
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This summer has brought to light a difficult truth to admit: there is still a sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. It is a crisis especially of a lack of transparency, accountability, and leadership.
On April 23, 2002, Pope Saint John Paul Il addressed the cardinals of the United States about the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. He stated, “Like you, I too have been deeply grieved by the fact that priests and religious, whose vocation it is to help people live holy lives in the sight of God, have themselves caused such suffering and scandal to the young... To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern."
He went on to say, 'It must be absolutely clear to the Catholic faithful, and to the wider community, that Bishops and superiors are concerned, above all else, with the spiritual good of souls. People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. They must know that Bishops and priests are totally committed to the fullness of Catholic truth on matters of sexual morality, a truth as essential to the renewal of the priesthood and the episcopate as it is to the renewal of marriage and family life. We must be confident that this time of trial will bring a purification of the entire Catholic community, a purification that is urgently needed if the Church is to preach more effectively the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all its liberating force. Now you must ensure that where sin increased, grace will all the more abound (cf. Rom 5:20). So much pain, so much sorrow must lead to a holier priesthood, a holier episcopate, and a holier Church."
It is difficult to read the words of St. John Paul II from all those years ago. While efforts have been made to prevent and address the predatory action of priests against the young and vulnerable since 2002, the devastated lives of the victims of clergy sexual violence and the legitimate questions about covering up such crimes by Church leadership demand more than what has been done to date. The findings from the grand jury report in Pennsylvania chronicling sexual abuse and possible cover-up by Catholic priests and bishops are nauseating. The credible accusations and continued allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, who was one of the leading voices for the Catholic Church in the United States in 2002 to address the crisis, are horrifying. If we are to do an honest, collective examination of conscience as a Church at this moment, we must conclude that we have not lived up to the call of Saint John Paul Il to protect the vulnerable and restore trust in Church leadership and fully live the Gospel.
As pastor of Saint John Paul II Parish, I am committed to the protection of our youth and the care of survivors of abuse. I have and will continue to report any concerns to the civil authorities. As a parish, we will follow all directives and best practices for the protection and care of our children. I also will call on Archbishop Naumann and the bishops of the United States to have a full, independent investigation done into the conduct of bishops and any possible cover-up of crimes. If you would like to talk and pray together about any of this, I'm at your disposal. I am especially grateful for the of survivors of abuse who have come forward. We are all in their debt for bringing to the light of Christ the deeds done in darkness. Their wounds are our wounds. I am sorry for the sins and crimes of my brothers in Holy Orders.
Please join me in turning to Jesus Christ and His Sacred Heart, that is wounded for love of us, in prayer and performing penance in reparation for our sins. The sins of our shepherds against the most vulnerable cry out to heaven for justice. Please pray and act for truth and justice to prevail in our Church. May the purification of the Church that St. John Paul Il desired truly happen. Come Lord Jesus.
Saint John Paul II, pray for us.
Fr. Andrew Strobl
Saint John Paul II Parish