“Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”
Gospel of St. Matthew
(also the lead off quote for Bishop Martino’s Pastoral Letter dated January 15, 2009)
If you want to know what is important to the Bishops in American Dioceses, you should take the time to review the pastoral letters written from the shepherd to the flock. In those letters they reveal their heart in terms of issues that are relevant to their respective congregations. Sometimes these letters are focused on religious lessons, calls for vocations and the celebration of important milestones. Pastoral letters that come soon after a new Bishop is installed usually lay out the vision that new Bishop embrace and chart courses for the future of the diocese. Some of these missives are thinly disguised political messages intended to influence or even direct the voting of parishioners.
I have been reviewing the 37 pastoral letters of Bishop Martino since he was installed as Bishop of Scranton in 2003. To me, what he has not said is as important of what he has said. He covers a narrow range of topics but he has not addressed, in any of the missives he has penned to his flock , the problems with the wolves hiding beneath Roman Collars in the Diocese of Scranton.
He has had opportunity to work sexual abuse in to a few of them. For instances, in his “Pastoral letter on Chastity” dated December 8, 2004 he addresses the issue of “sexual morality”. He states that:
The Church has always taught — and I teach here — that we need to find our happiness and holiness in a commitment to the chastity lived out in marital love or the chastity of celibacy lived out either in the consecrated life or the life of a single lay person in the world. These are the two paths to happiness and eternal life. There are no others.
He goes on to rail about sex outside of the context of marriage, extra marital affairs, same sex unions and abortion. Standard fare for a man in his position. What he failed to address was the issue of priests who are not chaste, either because they have sexual relationships with adults (men and women) or the very special group who prey on children. These are not the paths to happiness and eternal life either and yet this does not warrant a mention.
The pastoral letters of Bishop Timlin are not on the diocese website. So I cannot say if he ever addressed the issue. Given the track record of the Diocese, I would very surprised if he actually tackled the subject.
Since there is no evidence that this topic has been addressed by the Bishop let me offer a suggestion. Let the Parishioners know what has happened. Pen a pastoral letter that defines the scope of the problem, truthfully. Novel idea, I don’t know that these “Men of God” can handle the truth. The truth is that at least 25 priests (most likely more) have been accused and some have been convicted. They have been operating in Parishes in the Diocese and some are still there. Some are most likely still abusing and they are enjoying the top cover of the Bishop.
Show some backbone! List the names of the Priests that you have credible evidence against and go to the parishes that they operated in and seek out the rest of the victims. I am sure you will get a lot more respect by speaking out and making a stand than cowering behind a communications director spinning a story and making it worse.
Then take the people who have enabled these monsters and toss them out on the street. If the statutes of limitations have not expired, hand them over for trial. If you look in the Catholic Register and identify where the predator priests were located during their tenure in the diocese you will see who was serving with them. If you look at the names of the Scranton offenders you will find a secondary cast or characters who recur in the rectories where the pedophiles were located. They pop up in depositions that are matters of public record. Some of these men have moved into powerful positions in the diocese even when they have been associated with the sheltering of predator priests.
A pastoral letter that takes the issue of the priest sexual assault/rape/molestation/abuse scandal can the be the beginning of a catharsis. Take a look at the opening quote from the Gospel of St Matthew and read it carefully. That sentiment, so eloquent and simple applies to the victims of pedophile priests as well. What the Bishops of Scranton have not done for the victims, they have not done for Christ. You can’t interpret the gospels only when it is convenient.