Message to St. Mary's of Swormville

The following is a statement from Bishop Richard J. Malone which was read to the faith community of St. Mary of Swormville:

"My Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

I write this letter in the hope that you will read it with an open heart at a time that I know that many may be questioning the leadership of the Church. Let me be clear that the handling of claims from some of our parishioners -which you may have read about in news reports- has fallen short of the standard to which we hold ourselves and each other. We can and will do better.

Since 2002, the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People has been our guiding mandate; those of us in church leadership have worked diligently to apply its processes to our handling of abuse. In many ways I have sought to make the Charter my personal charge-to enforce this promise in a manner that honors survivors and protects those we serve.

However, upon reflection, I fear that in seeking to uphold the Charter to the letter, I may have at times lost sight of the harm that results from inappropriate sexual contact between clergy and adults.

Let me be clear - ALL of God's children deserve the same protection from inappropriate sexual contact, including adults. Moreover, all of our church ministers must be the embodiment of the Church's values. Illegal, harassing or unsettling behavior of any kind from those in ministry can have a reverberating impact on our community whether or not it may be considered criminal.

I make a promise to you today. I am instituting a program to examine the Diocese's procedures for handling claims of inappropriate conduct with adults and to recommend a method for honoring ALL survivors in a manner consistent with our protection for children. While we continue to work through the decades old abuses, we cannot lose sight of the actions of those within our Diocese today. We can and will do better in addressing the more current decisions pertaining to priests who violate sacred trusts.

To the victims of priest abuse of all ages, children and adults, I am profoundly sorry for the pain this has caused you . While nothing I can say to you could heal the hurt of this tragic breach of trust, I do as bishop of this diocese apologize to you. I want you to know that as I try to deal with what can often be an overwhelming and heart-wrenching mission, I am learning more every day that following my moral compass may serve us better than simply following past protocol.

In today's Gospel, many of Christ's disciples stopped following him, and he asked the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"  Simon Peter answered him, "Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

Today's Church faces the same existential question posed by Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago.  While the Church is divine, and guided by the Holy Spirit, it is also human, comprised of and led by flawed human beings who sin and fail.  The failures and sins of priests and bishops may cause some to go away. But for those who remain, we must try to correct the errors of the past and avoid sin in the future.

You did not come to this place today because of Fr. Robert Yetter.  And you did not come here today because of Bishop Richard Malone.  You came to hear the words of eternal life and to receive and become the Body of Christ.

Let's continue with the celebration of Mass now, and may it strengthen us to become better people of God. Please pray FIRST for victims of abuse everywhere and please find it in your heart to pray for me and all those who are trying to overcome the darkness of this sin and bring back the true light of what the Church should be for everyone.

Yours Sincerely in Christ,

Most. Rev. Richard J. Malone

Categories: Bishop Malone