Homily from the 5:30 p.m., 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Masses at St. Paul Catholic Church in Valparaiso, Ind.
Tradition has been that when a priest is ordained, his parents or supporters present him with a chalice he’ll use to celebrate Mass. The one that I use here in the main church was a gift from my parents. It’s very unique, and it has a story. You see, I wasn’t the first priest to use this chalice. It was used for years in the diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, then stored in a warehouse for years after the diocese closed a large number of parishes.
This week we heard about the sad reality of one of the major contributing factors as to why that parish and so many like it have closed around the country and around the world.
We’ve lost your trust, and because of that, so many have lost their faith.
There are no excuses for the horrific abuse that was covered up and allowed to happen again and again and again. No excuse. We can’t merely blame this sin, this sickness on men whose psychosexual growth was stunted when as teenagers they were told they were going away to a boarding school to become priests. That’s not fair to so many good priests who have stayed true to their word and their bond, bringing people to Christ with kindness, gentleness and – most of all – integrity.
We also can’t merely blame this on men with a same-sex attraction, because if you read the files from Pennsylvania, if you read the insert from our bishop in today’s bulletin, that’s also a hasty, unfair and inaccurate generalization.
This is a systemic cancer, and if you need someone to blame, blame me, and blame every man who has ever worn this collar – past and present. We have not held each other accountable.
And because of that, I believe it’s time for you to hold us accountable.
You deserve honesty. You deserve transparency. You shouldn’t have to demand it. You should expect it.
If we mean what we say when we say that the Church is the People of God, if we as priests and bishops ignore the needs and concerns of the People of God, then we’ve turned our backs on the very Church we’ve pledged our lives to serve.
To those whose lives have been shattered because one of us suspected something, but said nothing, I’m sorry.
To those whose lives have been shattered because one of us witnessed something, one of us knew something, and rather than protect you and other potential victims, we decided to protect our own hides, I’m sorry. No words will ever be able to undo the evil that our arrogance and lack of care caused you and others.
And, to those of you who saw the news out of Pennsylvania this week, and felt ashamed to be Catholic, know that the horrific actions of sinful men don’t tell the whole story of our faith. The story of our faith is told through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The one whose love and mercy is without limits, the one whose love and mercy heals, even when those called to make him real in this world have wounded you.
In a few moments, I’ll hold up bread and I’ll hold up that chalice my parents gave me, that chalice full of wine, and not through my power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, they’ll become the body and blood of Christ. And we hear Jesus say in our Gospel this day, “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
When we receive the body of Christ, we renew ourselves as the body of Christ. We renew the Baptism that has made each of us priest, prophet and king, giving us our rightful voice in the Church. And when we receive the body of Christ, we renew ourselves as Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit that gives us the gift of fortitude, the gift that helps us endure life’s storms and the gift that gives us the courage to stand up and let our voices be heard, so that no child is ever hurt again, so that every child is loved and treasured, taught and claimed as the beloved daughter and son of God.