Working together to right wrongs, do what’s best

| October 22, 2014

NienstedtBlWhenever the weather is bearable, I like to take a walk down Summit Avenue. It clears my head, allows me to pray and helps me work off a pound or two. The brilliant colors of a Minnesota fall are one of nature’s reminders that God is always present to us. We need such reminders of God’s love and such guidance especially during times of difficulty, from fears about deadly disease to the loss of a loved one; from challenges to living our faith publicly to troubles with family members at home.

In this issue of The Catholic Spirit, I must again share difficult news with you, but news that will ultimately, I believe, bring healing to this local Church. In this issue, you will find the names and assignments of 17 men who are accused of sexual abuse of a minor when they were assigned as priests. Among these, nine names are being disclosed for substantiated claims stemming from abuse in this archdiocese; eight are being disclosed because of substantiated claims in other dioceses. These names are new to our disclosure list, although several have been the subject of media reports over the past several decades. We are disclosing their names now as a result of an independent review of more than 3,000 priest files as well as from discussions with attorneys representing victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse. We have posted the information on the archdiocesan website, archspm.org, and SafeCatholicSPM.org. We alerted pastors at parishes where these men were previously assigned so that pastors can communicate directly with their parishioners. Most of those named are deceased, but the pain they caused is very much alive. I am profoundly saddened and sorry for the harm clergy sexual abuse has caused victims and survivors, their families and the community.

We first announced that we would be making these additional name disclosures last week in our news conference with Jeff Anderson & Associates. Mr. Anderson is an attorney representing the victims and survivors in most of the lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. For more than 30 years, he and his colleagues have fought for those harmed by clergy sexual abuse. We were engaged in an adversarial relationship that developed during those decades, with both sides saying hurtful things about the other out of a sense of mistrust. It has since become clear that we needed to work together to help bring about healing. Over the last three months, with my blessing, members of my leadership team met with Mr. Anderson and his team to put aside the harsh words and to focus on what we can do together to help those hurt by the Church and to help ensure that this tragedy is never repeated. What came out of those meetings has been called “historic”, “a landmark” and “a model.” A link to the news conference can be found on our website. I encourage you to watch this event in order to appreciate the courage it took for victims to speak publicly about their experiences. I also ask you to pray for them as they move forward. I have long wanted to move from being adversaries in the courtroom to collaborators, working together for what is best for victims and survivors, their families and our local communities. Isaiah 1:17-18 tells: “Make justice your aim: redress the wronged . . . Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord.”

I believe the Holy Spirit was and still is at work in these efforts as we move forward with help and healing. During the news conference announcing the Doe 1 settlement and the 17 child protection protocols developed as part of a separate agreement, one of the survivors mentioned that, for the first time in more than a decade, he was going to talk with his family about the Catholic Church in order to hear from his devoted parents their stories about their practice of the faith. He had not allowed conversation about anything Catholic in his home for years. One of the members of my leadership team, Charlie Rogers with the law firm of Briggs and Morgan, has told me with tears in his eyes that this was the first time in his 35-year career that he could live out his faith through his work. Charlie is a devoted Lutheran.

When we focus on doing what is right in helping the marginalized and the oppressed by speaking the truth, God will work through us.  As Catholics, I ask you to pray with open hearts for the changes that may be outside your comfort zone but are necessary in moving us all forward toward healing in this local Church. In your parish communities, I encourage you to welcome those who perhaps are returning to church after a long absence. Embrace those who are struggling with their own pain. Pray for those who have hurt you.

We still have much work ahead of us, and I cannot promise that there will not be more challenges ahead. But I can promise that God is with us every step of the way. We have come a long way, and while there is a long way to go, we can take comfort in knowing that we are doing what is right and just and that our actions now will help our local Church community come together and in the future be healed of our woundedness.

May God bless you!


Editor’s note:

Due to circumstances beyond our control, Archbishop Nienstedt’s column was not translated into Spanish this week. We apologize for any inconvenience.

 

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Category: Only Jesus

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