Local Catholics turn to parish, grassroots efforts to speak about national scandal

| and Susan Klemond | September 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

What can be done to hold bishops accountable? Will we ever hear the end of clergy sexual abuse? Will my children and grandchildren remain committed to the faith in light of the recent scandals?

These were among the questions and concerns about 50 Catholics brought to a Sept. 5 listening session at St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove. The event was among recent local opportunities for Catholics to talk and pray following the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which exposed clergy sexual abuse during 70 years in six dioceses in Pennsylvania, and a former U.S. nuncio’s claim that high-ranking Vatican prelates ignored allegations of sexual misconduct against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick.

Father Mike Sullivan, pastor of St. Joseph, said he wanted to give parishioners an opportunity to share ideas for solutions, which he planned to pass on to local Church leaders.

“They recognize what they think is a disparity between what the Church does and what their place of employment has to do,” he said of his parishioners, in terms of reporting and handling claims of misconduct. “That’s why they’re pushing back and saying, ‘Why is this happening in the Church yet?’”

A week earlier, Catholic young adults were asking the same thing at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Organizer Chris Damian, 27, told The Catholic Spirit that the event aimed to broaden ongoing discussions among young adult Catholics about recent sexual abuse revelations and to get a sense of where his age demographic is at in processing the crisis. He led the event, outlining a detailed history of clergy sexual abuse in the U.S. and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, which entered bankruptcy in 2015 to address claims of clergy sexual abuse.

“A lot of young adults have different positions, different views and different approaches to these problems,” Damian said. “I think one of the things holding us back from really resolving them is that we tend to stick with our own little camps.”

The discussion was broad and emotional, with attendees expressing frustration, disgust, and emotional and spiritual exhaustion from the crisis. Many called for complete transparency from Church leaders.

“I think there is a remaining, profound ignorance about sexual abuse, and I think because the abusers that we’re discussing are priests, they’re able to hide behind a collar,” said attendee Rosa Edholm, 27, a parishioner of St. Patrick in Oak Grove.

“‘Abuse’ is an easy word to say. ‘Rape’ is a harder word to say, and the graphic description of the rapes and molestations that happened, which were detailed in the [Pennsylvania] grand jury report are much harder to go into and much less pleasant [than ‘abuse’].”

Following the issuing of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Damian, a parishioner of St. Thomas More in St. Paul, met with several friends to discuss the scandal, and they found their discussions insightful and continued to meet. Their study of the John Jay report — findings of a research study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York following the Boston clerical sexual abuse scandal in 2002 — prompted interest in a large-scale discussion among their peers, as well as an evening vigil at the Cathedral of St. Paul Aug. 20.

At the Basilica, Damian identified four aspects to consider in facing the clergy sexual abuse crisis: prayer, education, dialogue and action. Ideas shared included increasing dedication to safe environment training, supporting faithful priests, requiring clergy to undergo regular mental health evaluations, improving checks and balances within the hierarchy, offering pastoral opportunities for reconciliation between victims/survivors and their abusers, ensuring financial accountability on all Church levels and committing to prayer.

On Aug. 26, a group of Catholics participated in a prayer service at the Cathedral prompted by the newly formed nationwide group #CatholicsForAction. “It’s ultimately a group of Catholics who realize that the promises of transparency and accountability that we keep hearing go unfulfilled,” said Jessica Nickrand, 31, a parishioner of St. Peter Claver in St. Paul and a local organizer.

Nickrand and Katharine Gordon, a former Jesuit Volunteer Corps member who recently moved to the Twin Cities, organized a Facebook group to advertise the local event.

“I hope that [the Church] can be better, and I hope that the Church can be one, as Christ has promised us, and that we’ll continue to meet, and that we’ll continue to hopefully work toward changes in our Church,” Nickrand said.


Category: Local News