Father Terry and Deacon Steve Swope spoke at the Masses the weekend of September 1 and 2 about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Findings. Here are the audio recordings:
Deacon Steve Swope
Father Terry Crone
Here is his written statement:
As you know, a couple of weeks ago the news broke that over 300 priests in the 8 dioceses of Pennsylvania were named as pedophiles by at least 1000 persons, spanning a time period of 70 years. The most upsetting, to me, aspect of this case, is that the bishops, then and now, did not call them to task for their crimes, and, in some cases, those priests are still serving in parishes around children and vulnerable adults.
First and foremost, my heart goes out to those individuals and families devastated by this offense against the moral and civil laws. I pray that they can find healing from within the Church, and in spite of the Church from friends and professional counselors. There is no good reason to keep the offenders working in parishes where they can do more harm.
Secondly, these priests have provoked anger and resentment in the rest of us who, while still sinners, are shocked and concerned that the public will paint all of us with the same brush. All have fallen short of the glory of God, but for most of us, our sins have not caused so much trauma and scandal in the Church.
The Jewish scripture scholar, Abraham Heschel, said that the message of the prophet is, “Few may be guilty, but all are responsible.” As a priest standing before you among the brotherhood of priests, I tell you, “I am sorry.” I am sorry that these sins and crimes have occurred, and I am sorry that those directly responsible have not been taken to task for their actions.
Thirdly, I am also sorry that all of us have to revisit these tragedies after 16 years of knowing about them. The scandal out of Boston in 2002 forced the bishops to start moving in the right direction to implement policies designed for the protection of our people, but it appears that those same bishops have not taken ownership of the Church’s sin and pledged to root out the rot within her branches. Scripture says that all that is hidden will come to light. Why are the bishops hiding in the darkness waiting for the press or the criminal courts to come along with a flashlight?
This week I was at the Provincial Assembly of priests in Charleston, SC, and it was attended by all 7 bishops and over 125 priests from Georgia, North and South Carolina. As archbishop, it fell to Archbishop Gregory to address the group and he said, that, although words are important, the time has come and is past that we need actions, not just words. He said that he had written a letter to the Holy Father asking for stricter penalties for perpetrators of the crimes and for the bishops who covered them up. What he did not say is what his plan is to release our own files from Central and North Georgia to the public. This week, I will write to him asking, “Archbishop, when are you going to release the records of suspected criminal activity among our priests and parishes?”
All of us are still disheartened and still furious with the goings on among fallen priests and political bishops, but we cannot lose hope. We are Christians, founded not on good advice, but on the blood of Christ crucified. When Jesus willingly took up the cross and died for our sins, he could see today. He could see the weakness of priest-pedophiles, and the weakness of bishops who turned a blind eye. Even Judas, his betrayer, was not exempt from his sacrifice of love.
Although we may have good reason to turn away from his Church, Christ asks us to remain faithful. In today’s gospel, Christ asks us alongside St. Peter, “Do you also want to leave?” Do not let a few bad actors ruin the blessings of the true Church of Christ. We must have the courage to answer with Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Truly the time for just words has passed and what is needed now is action. For many of us, it seems that our hands are tied: “What can I do to affect this issue?” Pope Francis has given us part of an answer: Fast and Pray. It may not seem like much, but prayer and fasting can change the world. Prayer and fasting transformed the greatest tragedy, the Crucifixion of the Son of God into the world’s greatest triumph, the power of life over death in his Resurrection.
It seems that few Catholics today know that the directives of the Church still encourage abstaining from meat on every Friday of the year. Although we are allowed to substitute other acts of charity in the place of abstinence, I am asking our parish faithful to avoid eating any meat every Friday and pray for everyone affected: the survivors and their families, the perpetrators, and the bishops who ignored the problem and put more children in danger. I am asking we continue these acts of penance until the bishops in the U.S. turn over their records to the public. This may take a long time, but the spiritual benefits to ourselves and to the world will be immense. Only God can make good things out of evil actions, so let us beg him to transform our world through the sacrifices we make.