A Letter from Father Baker

08-19-2018Weekly ReflectionFr. John Sims Baker

I think that I need to write today about a grave situation in the Church in our country and even in the world. I do so with some hesitation because I do not wish to disturb the peace of those who are not aware of this situation. Yet, I know that a number of parishioners have deep concerns that I need to address. I also want to discuss this situation prudently as it concerns sensitive matters.

The situation is the re-emergence of the clergy sexual abuse crisis that was first widely reported on beginning in 2002. The current crisis gained attention with the revelation this summer of abuse carried out over decades by Archbishop McCarrick, former cardinal and archbishop of Washington. The matter is compounded because it has become clear that many other bishops were aware of Archbishop McCarrick’s transgressions, and yet he continued to be entrusted with responsible roles of leadership without public objection or correction. It is frankly a scandal that this could have come about. Other similar instances of abuse that had been covered up have also come to light following these revelations about McCarrick. The scandal is new in that it implicates so many very high-ranking bishops and cardinals, and it is painfully familiar in its disregard for the damage to the victims and to the People of God.

First, I apologize as a pastor of the Church. These actions should not have happened, and they should have been dealt with openly and seriously when they first became known. I will do what I can to influence those in the Church with greater responsibility than I have to respond and to act compassionately to the victims and decisively regarding the perpetrators.

What else can be done? First of all, pray for the victims. Also, pray for those with the authority to respond to the scandal. I think that it would help if members of the laity let the bishops know of their dismay and justified anger. Come forward if you have any knowledge of abuse, and encourage others to do so. Criminal activity should be reported to the police directly, as well as to Church officials. I am at your service if I can be of any help.

Finally, do not lose hope! Our hope is not the virtue or good judgment of men. If it were, the Church would have failed long ago. Our hope is in the fidelity of God to be with the Church. God cannot fail in fidelity, goodness, truth, and beauty – and most especially in love!

Fr. John Sims Baker