Bishop’s message for September…

Bishop David Talley would like to share with you the letter he sent to the clergy of our diocese regarding the latest revelations concerning clergy sexual abuse:

August 24, Feast of St. Bartholomew, an Apostle of the Lord

I have waited a bit to write to you, not knowing how to say what was in my heart.  Like you, I have been shaken to the core these past few weeks, with the waves of horrible news accounts that tear at the heart of our love for Christ’s Church and our respect for her ministers: a Cardinal, known to have sexually abused a child, a teen and seminarians; and, those 300 priests in Pennsylvania.  Such evil.

On this Feast Day of one of the Twelve, I write you as a successor of those Apostles, as both your brother in Christ and as your Bishop, to offer us a way to remain a faithful community of Christ’s love and service.

The first shockwave of evil we learned about involved a revered Cardinal.   From what we have learned from many first hand sources, a priest of the Lord, Theodore McCarrick, who was first consecrated as an Auxiliary Bishop …. then appointed Bishop of a Diocese …. then made Archbishop and Cardinal of Washington D.C.  was “promoted” through his decades of service …. while he was behaving immorally, sinfully, by sexually tempting and sexually abusing young men who longed to serve the Lord as priests.

The seemingly unrepentant pattern of sinfulness is a tragedy for anyone, but especially for one who has dedicated his life to the chaste and celibate service of the Lord Jesus. But what is more troubling …. more threatening to Christ’s Church …. is that this young Bishop was “promoted” over a period of decades when …. according to so many accounts …. his sinful behavior was known to so many …. including seminary staff members and members of the Hierarchy. Why did no one speak out?

The second shockwave for me and us …. the recently released Pennsylvania Grand Jury report.  I read the entire report.  It chronicles decades of true darkness, of evil, in the lives of priests.  The report details this reality, that over three hundred priests of the dioceses examined by the Grand Jury had sexually abused over one thousand children and teens.  THREE HUNDRED priests …. ordained to serve as instruments of Christ the Lord …. ONE THOUSAND boys and girls …. God’s children and teens, our children and teens.  Many of these boys and girls were introduced to alcohol and drugs and pornography by some of these three hundred priests …. for one purpose.  I wonder, did no one see a change in the child’s behavior?  If they did, why did no one speak out?  What is our response in faith to this horrendous news?

  • Please don’t close your eyes to the horror of sin.  Our righteous anger is the exact response we should have as we recognize such evil.  Remember that St. Paul warns us that our struggle is with the powers and principalities of evil (Ephesians 6.12).  But don’t try and figure it out alone, these institutional and moral failures of Bishops and Priests.  Both clergy and laity must seek anew the Heart of the Redeemer, with prayer and fasting (Mark 9.20-29)…as we lift up the victims of sexual abuse …. as we ask for healing and renewal of Christ’s Church …. as we work to change what must be changed …. within ourselves and within the institutions of Christ’s Church.  These institutional changes must involve the input of lay leaders.
  • Keep your ears and hearts open to anyone that might step forward as a victim of past or present abuse.  Help them to find our established protocols [c.f. environment]: First, to contact the police or sheriff, then to contact our Diocesan Victims Assistance Coordinator [Dr. Lee Kneipp, 318-542-9805].
  • Support the Safe Environment program in your parish and mission and school.  Keep current with your VIRTUS training, if you serve in some capacity.  Since the Church’s “Dallas Charter” was implemented in June 2002, the number of reported cases of sexual abuse by clergy and church personnel has dropped dramatically.  The overwhelming number of cases mentioned in the Grand Jury report occurred before 2002.  Though much needs to be done, our efforts of creating a Safe Environment in our parishes and missions and schools is working.  We must be vigilant.
  • The Diocese of Alexandria has an established Review Board which primarily consists of lay membership.  The Board is committed to the protection of our children and teenagers.  This Review Board meets regularly with me, to ensure that any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is fully and appropriately investigated.  My Review Board joins me in the commitment to adhere to the Safe Environment protocols developed.  We will not tolerate any diminishment of those safe-guards.  There will be no cover-up of wrongdoing.
  • Fridays are the traditional days for intentional prayer and fasting, as a penance for sinfulness and as a time of conversion of heart.  I ask each of us to use the Fridays in September …. as special days of prayer and fasting …. for the victim’s healing …. for renewal in the Church.
  • During the month of September, I ask each Pastor and Administrator to offer a Mass of Healing, for the healing of victims of sexual abuse and their families…for the priests and deacons that serve in central Louisiana …. for the whole Church …. and for the clergy that committed these terrible acts of evil. I will hope to celebrate the Cathedral’s 5:30 PM Mass on 2 September …. with this in mind and heart.

In these difficult days …. let us remain connected to one another in faith, and to the Lord of Love, as branches on the Vine of Life (John 15. 1-5), as members of His Body …. as the Church. I am your brother in Christ and your Bishop, according to His Will, in the light and love of the Lord,

Most Reverend David P. Talley
Bishop of Alexandria