Dear Friends in Christ:
I am writing this letter in advance of the release of names by the Catholic Dioceses of Texas of those clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors over the last 70 years. As I compose this letter, I have no idea of how many names, what names or anything else concerning this issue, as the bishops have not shared this information with the priests in the parishes. As I receive information, I will share it with you.
Sexual abuse is a tragic and horrible act. The sexual abuse of a minor is even more so. When such a hideous act is committed by a member of the clergy, it is not only sinful and criminal, it is also scandalous and is a great wound to the victim and to the Church. Even more distressing for many is the revelation that the response of Church leaders in the past was poor, and that many of these facts have been known by our leaders and for various reasons not been made known publicly. There is understandable hurt and outrage that we have been let down by those whom we have trusted.
As I do not know the details, it is best for me to wait before making any comment on any of the specifics. What I can say and what we can do is continue to pray for the victims and all those involved in this painful situation that has affected our Church. Sexual abuse and sexual impropriety are rampant in our society at large, and it has certainly wounded our Church. This is not new. No segment of society, no religion, no profession, no group has been immune from this evil. It is important for us not to lose sight of the larger picture. Although the focus is once again on Catholic clergy, this is not a Catholic problem and it is not a clergy problem. This is a societal problem. In 2018 alone, there were nearly 400 current cases of sexual abuse of minors by public school teachers in Texas. This does not excuse those few men among the Catholic clergy who broke their vows, violated the trust placed in them and abused innocent young people or the ways in which these situations were handled, but it gives some context as to how pervasive this problem is.
In a real way, this painful experience is a purification of God’s Church. It is not pleasant for anyone. Everyone hurts, the guilty and the innocent alike. As disciples of Jesus, we mourn with those who have been injured. As faithful Catholics, we grieve to see the Church that we love tarnished by this filth. We hurt to have the trust that we placed in others violated. As sinners ourselves who know God’s mercy and forgiveness, we must also pray for those who have committed these sins and forgive them as Jesus has forgiven us our sins. As a people of hope redeemed in the Blood of Christ, we must also pray and work for healing and not let this work of the devil compromise our fervor and commitment to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that would please the devil more than for us to allow these terrible acts to weaken our faith and commitment to Jesus and separate us from His Church. While we can be ashamed of some of our leaders’ actions and angry that these scandalous actions occurred, we should never stop loving the Lord and the Church, which is His bride and for whom He laid down his life.
May Mary, Our Mother and Mother of the Church, patroness of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, continue to intercede for us with her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, as we turn to her in this time of our need.
In pace Christi,