In the mid 1990’s, a few refugee men who had come to resettle in Buffalo with their families often found themselves in court proceedings. In my walk with them at these times they often would comment, “People call America a ‘Land of the Free’ but there are laws about almost everything.” In this weekend’s first reading from the book of Deuteronomy the author recalls and reflects upon the unique relationship that the chosen people have with their Living God. Unlike other nations whose false gods were silent and their civil rulers led them in a dictatorship style; in the beginning the people of Israel had no King or human leader as well as no imaged god to lead them. However the Living imageless God did lead them and they experienced that leadership through mouth pieces for God like Moses and Aaron. The Living God shared with them laws that would help guide their peaceful living with God Himself as well as enabling them to grow in their respect and care of one another. The function of law in society is to protect the rights of all its citizens and to provide a just and equitable process for resolving issues between them. Good and healthy laws provide a sense of peace and freedom for all the members of a given society.
(Personal Views and Reflections Part 2)
One most frustrating part of sharing reflections with you all in writing and with early deadlines is that just after the items are submitted and scheduled for printing, more sad news comes out and makes some earlier comments appear to have missed the point. This is what happened with last week’s article. After its submission came the news releases by TV news media about Fr. Art and Fr. Bob and the Bishop’s role in these events. Please know that I am preparing these comments on Monday, August 27, 2018. In my last column I tried to makes some sense about the current crisis and some logical reasoning about how certain circumstances may have helped to foster some of these tragic events. Please remember that these are not excuses but just some reflections that might shed some light on why such events are happening. I also tried to understand the most difficult job of any Bishop in dealing with the complexity of these matters.
I join many of you in being personally hurt by the news concerning Fr. Bob at St. Mary Parish. I always admired Fr. Bob’s dedicated, gentle, and loving style of leadership. To me he always embodied the attitude of Jesus toward the people entrusted to his care. I feel really beat down as I witness many of my mentors, colleagues, and friends being named and accused whether justly or unjustly. Though not legally “child sexual abuse” the actions in which Fr. Bob was engaged could be considered sexual harassment in the least and needed to be dealt with in a different manner than just a quiet fading into retirement. We pray God’s healing for all those who have suffered such unwanted advances. Since this news broke another party stepped forward with a possible “under age” accusation against Fr. Bob.
My experience is that it is hard to know and understand the needs of the people in the three parishes that I pastor. I rely upon members of my pastoral staff, parish council, and others to be the eyes and ears of the parish who faithfully give me feedback and informational updates along with recommendations. If that is my experience, I’m sure that the Bishop operates in a similar fashion especially with the complexity of his role and the enormity of the Diocese. Through his first few years, he has tried harder than any Bishop of recent years to get to know his priests on a more personal level. However he too depends upon professionals and trusted advisors. In regard to the advice our bishop received concerning Fr. Art I’ve determined that sometimes the advice he receives has been proven flawed.
In my personal struggle with the sins, mistakes, and errors of judgment of colleagues as well as my own inadequacies what helps me deal with it is some wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who taught me through one of his sermons that a person should not be defined by their most deplorable deeds but by the totality of their lives. Dr. King was referring to the persons who wished that he and his family were dead for standing up for the injustice of his day. Fr. Bob and even Fr. Art are more than their mistaken actions. However we as a church truly have advocated more for the clergy than the victims.
In the name of our Church, I apologize for the actions of my brother priests. Those actions have hurt us all and most especially the victims of these atrocities. Collectively we apologize for ruining their lives and for the families that have been unjustly treated by our silence. We apologize to all our Church’s membership who feel betrayed and have lost faith and trust in us. We pray that the true light of Jesus will purify us and bring us to a true repentance. May the Lord give us all the strength in these most uncomfortable hours. When I think of how our Church has survived its starting with a motley group called the Twelve, it must truly be the work of God’s Spirit. When we study Church history we may be scandalized by the many evils each generation seemed to be afflicted with. Let us not be deceived. This is a period of trial for us all. It is not a time to run and hide but a time ripe with God’s grace if only we allow some of our precious attachments to individuals die so that a new creation can be born in us. May the Lord truly have mercy upon us.
READY FOR SOME GOOD NEWS? The Parish Communities of St. Martin de Porres and St. Lawrence are pleased to announce the Ordination to the Order of Deacons for our seminarian Moses Ikuelogbon. It will take place on Saturday, September 15th at 9:30 AM at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna. The joint parishes of St. Martins and St. Lawrence will be hosting a reception following the Ordination Mass at the St. Lawrence parish hall, 1520 E Delavan Avenue, Buffalo, NY beginning at 12:30PM. The parking lot behind the Church will be reserved for those with limited mobility. There will be others on hand to assist with parking directions and shuttle service. Let’s keep Moses as well as the six others to be ordained to the Transitional Deaconate and the eight Permanent Deacon Candidates in our prayers.