Reprinted with permission, the text of Bishop Richard J. Malone's Chrism
Mass homily, delivered at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo on March 27,
gather for the Chrism Mass this year
at a moment in our diocesan history when our Catholic community is in the
throes of a crisis. Together, we are struggling to navigate through a storm -
dark, unnerving, shocking, angering, faith-shaking. As much as we hate to think
about it, the fact is that the past aberrant behavior of some of our priests -
a few, in the big picture - long shrouded in darkness, has come into the light
- thanks to the courage of one victim, Michael, who came forward and publicly
disclosed his victimization. This revelation has triggered a series of other
sad stories of trust betrayed and young people harmed.
consultation with our Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Pastoral Council - and
with their strong endorsement - I disclosed the names of 42 priests who are
known to have abused children and young people. I made
that decision for 3 reasons: for transparency; for the empowerment the truth
gives victims to come forth so that we can help them; and for mitigation of
risk of future incidents when past abuses are identified.
Catholic people are reeling, as are we priests, and understandably so. At the
same time, I've received more support from both laity and brother priests than
I can ever remember in 18 years as a bishop. I'm sure you have, as well, my
brothers. We're in this together - all of us - lay, clergy and religious - who
are the Church of Western New York. And especially we who are priests. I know from
meetings with the victims - I met with two victims just yesterday - and from
conversations with brother priests, who are angry and ashamed - I know the
truth of Blessed - soon to be Saint - Oscar Romero's words: "There are many
things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried." Many of us know
those tears. I do.
the current reality. So what about moving forward? The Chrism Mass, after all,
is all about the future: blessing the sacramental oils that are the tools of
our priestly ministry - for use in parishes from tonight until the next Chrism
Mass in 2019. What we do here this evening is for the days, weeks and months
ahead, as our people are anointed - as priests at Ordination, at Baptism and
Confirmation, and in ministry to the sick and dying. As we do this, we recall
that we priests, like Isaiah and Jesus, have been anointed ourselves to bring
glad tidings, goods news, to our people. We heard these words in Jesus'
inaugural homily in the Gospel today. We are anointed to do what Jesus did,
what we are ordained and sent to do in His name, His person, His power: to
herald the Gospel of Joy! And to serve our people well, as Jesus invites -
indeed, commands us to do - we have the paradoxical grace in this crisis in our
presbyterate, our Church, to be called to a higher standard, a more authentic
integrity, a more transparent and radiant holiness. We have, right now, a
graced opportunity to lift ourselves beyond tragedy to heroic heights. We have
a chance to start afresh through, with and in Christ!
to the words of St. John Paul II in his Holy Thursday letter to priests in
At this time... as priests we are
personally and profoundly affected by the sins of some of our brothers who have
betrayed the grace of Ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms
of the mysterium iniquitatis at work
in the world. Grave scandal is caused, with the result that a dark shadow of
suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry
with honesty and integrity and often with heroic self-sacrifice. As the Church
shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice
to each of these painful situations, all of us - conscious of human weakness,
but trusting in the healing power of divine grace - are called to embrace the mysterium Crucis and to commit ourselves
more fully to the search for holiness. We must beg God in his Providence to
prompt a whole-hearted reawakening of those ideals of total self-giving to
Christ which are the very foundation of the priestly ministry.
Pope John Paul goes to the heart of the matter: "It is precisely our faith in
Christ which gives us the strength to look trustingly to the future."
wrap-up, final words to you, my brother priests - and you can all listen in -
we will get through this dark time together if we keep our focus on Jesus Christ
and nurture our relationship with Him, individually and as a community of
priests! We must be firmly committed to growth in holiness. Every survey I have
seen on what our good people most desire to see in us priests - and I just
rechecked the data - lists as #1: spiritual depth! A personal relationship with
God! They want kindness, yes, responsiveness, leadership - but nothing trumps -
pardon the expression - our priestly holiness, our life of prayer.
lastly, let's take good care of one another! Don't let a brother priest
isolate. Reach out. Call. Send an email. Get together for lunch. And pray with
and for one another. I pray for you every day. I offer Mass for you all every
week. And I love you.
recipe is not just for us individually, but for the good of the Church. The
Pre-Synodal meeting of 300 young representatives from around the world in
preparation for the October Synod on Young People and Faith took place in Rome
last week. Listen to one of their comments: "Today's young people are longing for
an authentic Church. We want to say -
especially to the hierarchy of the Church - that they should be a transparent,
welcoming, honest, inviting, communicative, accessible, joyful and interactive
community. A credible Church is one which is not afraid to allow itself to be
seen as vulnerable."
feel vulnerable now. As we walk the Way of the Cross this week, let's open
ourselves, anew, as did Our Lord Jesus, to the saving grace of that
vulnerability - the vulnerability of Jesus on the Cross! The vulnerability that
makes us workers in the field hospital to which Pope Francis calls us. The
vulnerability that will burst open into the radiant, healing glow of the Risen
Lord! We are Easter People! Our horizon is always Resurrection!