Dear Parishioners of Corpus Christi and St. John Neumann:
Please bear with me for this letter, but I feel this needs to be said and addressed:
I have been struggling how to address this topic. Many of my brother priests across the country have addressed the topic homiletically, which I have yet to do. It is sometimes difficult to address the topic when I only preach at one parish on a weekend.
The long and short of it is: I am angry and betrayed at the news and events that have recently been revealed in both Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. I am angry at the shortsightedness of bishops. I am angry at those who knew something about Archbishop McCarrick and did or said nothing. I am even angrier at those who actively sought to bury the information that is now being revealed in the press and in witness statements, etc.
With McCarrick in particular, I feel a strong sense of betrayal. In 2002, he was part of the face of the reforms called for in the wake of the revelations out of Boston and the implementation of the Dallas Charter that called for zero tolerance in the face of credible allegations of abuse against a priest. And he had credible and substantiated cases against him! Cases that were apparently widely known, yet nothing came out against him and he continued to minister ‘in good standing’ while so many priests who had far less credible evidence against them were removed from ministry.
(I want to be absolutely clear here: I 100% agree that there is no room in ministry for priests who have engaged in sexual abuse of another. Full stop. My issue is that it is very clear now that Archbishop McCarrick (formerly Cardinal McCarrick) had significant evidence against him, yet he continued in ministry. This is the source of my anger.)
It grew even worse, however, when the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released revealing the mindset of bishops in the past in their handling (more correctly: their lack of handing!) of cases of abuse by priests under their supervision. To read that report is to weep. For the Church and more importantly for victims of these predatory priests; so many of whom could have been stopped if the bishops had acted like men and fathers instead of bureaucrats and corporate ‘yes-men.’ Had they fulfilled their call to be shepherds after the heart of the Good Shepherd, we would not be in this mess. Again.
To any victim of childhood sexual abuse, whether by a priest, by a family member, or by a stranger: I am truly sorry and grieve with you at what was stolen from you by a predator who took advantage of your innocence. If there is anything I can do to assist you in your ongoing recovery, please do not hesitate to reach out to me or to civil authorities. These crimes need to continue to be brought to light, whether by a priest, family member or stranger.
I can speak to things I do know. During my time as Director of Vocations, we continued to refine and raise the standards that we used for admission. There were a number of applicants throughout my eight years as DoV that we simply could not accept because of manifest unresolved psychological issues. There were also a number of men that were asked to leave formation due to a variety of issues, not just this one. As the standards were raised for men in formation towards the priesthood, the majority of them responded tremendous generosity and seriousness. Those who failed to respond did not advance or were asked to leave formation. Interestingly, as our standards increased, so did the enrollment.
Personally, this latest round of revelations has me struggling as well. Struggling with the air of suspicion that all priests now labor under. Struggling with a lack of transparency and integrity that has been displayed over the last few weeks and months. Struggling with a lack of ‘fatherhood’ on the part of some bishops and church leaders. And it has absolutely and utterly broken my heart.
And I struggle with how to respond.
In a discussion with brother priests from around the country in a private group chat, we agreed that there is only one acceptable response on our part: to continue to thirst for and grow deeper in our own personal holiness.
And so, to you, my parishioners, whom I have a personal responsibility before God, I make the following commitment and promise: Even before these revelations came out, I have been striving to increase my prayer life, my own personal holiness and my own commitment to my priestly vows in order that I might be a better and more worthy pastor, shepherd and spiritual father to you all.
Please continue to pray for me as your pastor, for Fr. Tom Wray and the many other priests who assist us in the Mass schedules in this pastoral region, for Archbishop Schnurr that he may continue to be a good shepherd for our Archdiocese, and for our Church, that she may be the healing and comforting Mother she is called to be.
But most of all, pray for any and all victims of abuse, that they might be able to overcome their pain and find the healing and peace that is available only in Jesus Christ, our Savior.
In Christ, the Good Shepherd,
Fr. Kyle Schnippel