Bishop Hying

In the midst of heartbreak and grief, this is the moment to call on the Lord’s mercy and grace

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on August 26, 2018


      We are all reeling from the horrifying reports of clergy sexual abuse in Pennsylvania; hundreds of priests abused more than a thousand minors for decades with the collusion of bishops who hid the reality, reassigned abusers and never dealt with the evil before them. 

      The narratives are heartbreaking, overwhelming and almost unimaginable. We grieve for the victims and their families, who have suffered suicide, depression, broken relationships and nightmares because of what they experienced at the hands of an abusing priest. This horror is the antithesis of everything that Jesus Christ and the Church purport to be about. 

      One can say that the vast majority of these cases occurred before 2002 when the implementation of the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Youth and Minors sought to create a safe environment for every child within a Catholic institution. We can talk about how these efforts have fundamentally worked and that we are moving in the right direction. 

      None of this progress, however, can erase the grief, sorrow, anger and shame directed at the Church and her leaders as we continue to deal with these terrible cases. The Holy Father needs to determine the culpability of bishops and other Church officials who have covered up the abuse perpetrated by clerics and to administer appropriate action. Disturbing examples, such as former-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, remind us that narcissistic power used to abuse others is the opposite of everything that the Church stands for.

      This crisis asks much of us.  Some may be tempted to leave the Church in disgust and despair. I can understand such righteous anger. If you are feeling that way, I ask you to reconsider. Our faith is not in earthly leaders, but in Jesus Christ.  He entrusts the mission of his Church, which he founded, to sinful and fallible people, beginning with Simon Peter and Mary Magdalene. 

      This paradox of the Church’s holiness as the Body of Christ and the sinfulness of its members finds its symbolism when Jesus shows his wounds to the disciples after the Resurrection.  Christ is risen but wounded; the Church is holy but broken. We are saints and sinners. Grace and evil coexist side by side.  Think of the weeds among the wheat. 

      Nevertheless, it is the Church who offers us the Word of God and the Eucharist, the forgiveness of sins and the promise of life everlasting. In the community of the Church, we find the Lord and each other. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Simon cries out.  Most people in the Church, both leaders and faithful, are basically decent and good, even though we are all sinners and need to acknowledge our radical need for grace and forgiveness. If you are struggling with the Church right now, reach out to your pastor or reach out to me. 

      This crisis asks us to do penance, fasting and prayer in atonement for sin, both our own and that of others in the Church, especially those who perpetrated these evil deeds of abuse. I want to spend more time in silence and prayer, give more money to the poor and to the Church, embrace a more abstemious lifestyle in reparation for my own sins and those of others. 

      The Bible narrates multiple examples of whole communities who turned towards the Lord in prayer and fasting, beseeching grace and pardon. To that end, I would invite all of our leaders and the faithful of the diocese to embrace some form of penitential practice in these ensuing weeks, asking for healing for the victims of sexual abuse and for the conversion of everyone within the Church to a life of greater holiness, rooted in the Lord. 

      I will be offering a special Mass for this intention on Friday Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at our Cathedral of the Holy Angels, preceded by Eucharistic exposition beginning at noon that day. I invite our pastors to schedule a similar Mass at their own parishes, either on the same day or sometime during the month of September.

      We need to continue to be vigilant for the protection of our children and young people. I am grateful for the hundreds of employees and volunteers in our diocese who comply with the Dallas Charter as they serve in our communities with love and devotion. I am also grateful to Kelly Venegas, our Diocesan Victims Assistance Coordinator and the review board for their good and diligent work. Many people are striving to do all they can in this important effort.

      This crisis asks us to embrace the path of missionary discipleship with greater ardor and zeal. Our whole synod process has been a movement of the Holy Spirit, as we seek to rediscover the fire of the Gospel, share the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection with others and to renew our parish communities through evangelization, worship, formation and the other areas of ecclesial life.

      I see so much enthusiasm, love, sacrifice and faith in the leaders and faithful of our diocese. We cannot let the evil crush our spirit. We cannot let the darkness win. We cannot give up on Christ’s Church, for she is us. 

      This moment is the time to call on the Lord’s mercy and grace as we strive to move forward through the darkness of this pain. Let us pray for and support each other, knowing that Christ is with us in the boat as we face the storm.


       + Donald J. Hying

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