Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

Faith in the Public Arena: (Civic) friendship is an apostolate

When you read this, the 2018 elections will have passed. The anger will continue to boil, and new opportunities for outrage will undoubtedly abound. The demonization of political opponents will persist, and the saddling of the American presidency with criminal investigations and threats of impeachment will likely become a permanent feature of our politics.

Jason Adkins
Jason Adkins
Faith in the Public Arena

It is hard to see a way out of our current predicament, other than a new Great Awakening through a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Yet, whatever the designs of Providence for the American republic, we know what Catholics must continue to do to foster moral and civic renewal: participate in the public arena as faithful citizens, embodying Pope Francis’s reminder that politics is one of the highest forms of charity because it serves the common good.

In short, we must be true friends to our elected offi cials and our fellow citizens.

Friendship, not power

The idea of politics as friendship seems counterintuitive, given that politics often looks like a power game, in which the primary goal is to defeat our opponents in elections and then impose our will upon them. In this struggle for control, the ends justify the means, and those who do not share our political opinions are not just of a different mind, but of a different kind — they are “one of them,” or “the other.”

But the church proposes a different idea of politics — one that goes back to the ancients. Politics comes from the Greek word polis, meaning “city.” Some of us live in the polis of Minneapolis, for example.

Politics, the communal process of deliberation within the polis, was not a wrestle for control; it was fi rst and foremost a task of friendship. This friendship shared among citizens was shaped by the pursuit of virtue — and this made it possible for citizens to come together as equals to deliberate how they ought to order their common life in pursuit of the good.

The church embraced this understanding of politics, identifying its proper purpose as the pursuit of the common good.

To have strong communities (literally, a sharing of gifts), everyone needs to play a role and offer his or her perspective. We each have unique gifts to share in that great conversation about how we ought to bring about the good in our city. We need to learn to see ourselves as all being fundamentally on the same “side.”

Living civic friendship

Yes, political debates can get heated because important issues are at stake.

Our battle for justice and the common good, however, is not against people, but, as St. Paul reminds us, against the powers and principalities (Ephesians 6:12). It is a spiritual battle. That is why Cardinal Robert Sarah could say in a recent speech that “A Christian does not fi ght anyone. A Christian has no enemy to defeat. Christ asks Peter to put his sword into his scabbard. This is the command of Christ to Peter, and it concerns every Christian worthy of the name.” This is an important lesson: in politics: We may have temporary opponents, but we must never mistake them for permanent enemies.

Our discourse has become so coarse, and so much anger fl ows through our nation, because our horizons have become political rather than eschatological. When there is no ultimate justice meted out by God, we look for politics to bring it about. And it cannot. Hence, when we place our hope in princes, we will always be disappointed. And that is where the cycle of anger and political decay begins and sets in.

Christians must model a different way: a model of friendship. Just as any good apostolate must be rooted in relationship, fostering friendship with others through friendship with Christ, faithful citizenship is no different.

We must reach out to both our elected offi cials and fellow citizens in friendship, offering ourselves as resources and as friends in the important conversations about how we ought to order our lives together.

Sometimes we will disagree, and that is okay. But disagreements need not lead to division or demonization. Sometimes, people will see us as enemies, and some will even persecute us. But politics lived as true friendship will change hearts, build stronger communities and undo the knots of division and resentment plaguing our communities.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.


Action Alert

How does one begin? The bishops of Minnesota created Catholics at the Capitol and Capitol 101 events as a way to grow in faithful citizenship and civic friendship. Through these opportunities, Catholics are formed and sent to be true resources — friends — to their elected offi cials and communities. The next Catholics at the Capitol event takes place in St. Paul on Feb. 19, 2019. Join over 2,000 Catholics in a day of education, inspiration, prayer, and advocacy. Grow in your knowledge and courage to be a faithful citizen! Join your voice with others to bring a Catholic perspective on issues to our state Capitol. Tickets are now on sale! Visit catholicsatthecapitol.org for more information and to register. Space is limited; register early!

Bishop Paul Sirba: Accountability helped by the assistance of the whole People of God

“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

St. Paul established a Christian community in Corinth about the year 51. The city, a major seaport and commercial crossroads, struggled with issues of moral depravity, factionalism, questions of leadership, and other cultural woes that spilled into its celebration of the liturgy. St. Paul courageously responded to issues of conscience in the light of faith in Jesus Christ — there really is nothing new under the sun.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

As a church we are facing numerous challenges in our own day. Foremost is dealing with the clergy sexual abuse crisis. For years we have been dealing with the painful consequences of the sins surrounding the sexual abuse of minors. Our priority has been to bring healing to those who have been hurt and to do all in our power to prevent this sin from happening again.

Like you, I want the truth to come out in all the levels of the church, so that we can respond accordingly in the light of the Gospel. Our Catholic faith teaches that we will all ultimately be judged: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). There is ultimate justice. Now is the time of mercy.

I ask your prayers for the upcoming meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 12-15, in Baltimore. Our executive committee has requested of the Holy See a full investigation of Archbishop McCarrick, formation of a lay commission to assist in the investigation of reports of sexual abuse or harassment by bishops or failure of bishops in responding to such claims, and other third party accountability and reporting systems. I support these initiatives and, along with the committee, “humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”

Recently the priests and deacons of the Diocese of Duluth gathered for our annual Clergy Conference in Grand Rapids. Our topic was the Patristic age of the Church. We devoted time to our need for ongoing intellectual formation. Benedictine Father Denis Robinson, the rector of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, was our presenter. Among the many themes he addressed was the tension that exists in order to maintain orthodoxy. We are constantly in pursuit of the truth. Tension propels us into motion, rather than being solidified in our faith. Challenges and controversies in the Church bring to light a deeper understanding of the truth. “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Whatever age of the church on which we reflect, the problems were best resolved by the holiness unleased in the Body of Christ. Saints are the best answer to our crisis or any crisis.

Our priests and deacons spent additional time discussing the present crisis in our church. We had frank discussions and question and answer sessions about how this crisis impacts us personally, how it painfully affects our local church and the church universal, and what we are called to do in response. I am so grateful to God for our priests and deacons presently serving in our diocese! They are men of faith and action serving with the heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

McIver offers hopeful vision in the midst of ‘ruins’

“Love persists in the midst of ruins.”

That might be the most apt takeaway from Colin McIver’s presentations at the Diocese of Duluth’s 13th annual Diocesan Assembly, held Oct. 13 at Marshall School in Duluth. It was attended by about 170 people.

Colin McIver
Colin McIver addresses the crowd at the annual Diocesan Assembly Oct. 13 at Marshall School in Duluth. He spoke on the church’s teaching on human sexuality and its See McIVER on page 22 answers for the world. (Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross)

McIver, an author and speaker from Ascension Press, took this mantra from his fi rst talk from the title of a Walker Percy book, “Love in the Ruins.”

“The word ‘ruin,’ I think, is a pretty apt description of where we fi nd ourselves in the church,” he said.

He noted his own life as an example. He has two adopted children, and he says their odds of being adopted, as opposed to aborted, were extremely low. He himself is the product of divorce, his father a laicized priest.

He noted the clergy abuse scandal and how really the whole human story is God’s love in the midst of ruins.

“The solution in the midst of ruins is as it has always been,” he said, “to be saints. … I think we very much can flourish in the midst of this.”

He cited the example of St. Francis of Asissi, who must have appeared to his contemporaries as “nuts.” But holiness attracts. “When real holiness happens, it’s magnetic,” he said. “… The Gospel outshines imposters.”

In contrast to the ruins, he noted that there is a clear, positive vision of sex, love, and relationships found in the church’s teaching. “most of us have heard of it,” he said to the crowd. “Most people in the world haven’t.”

And he said that while the teaching of Humanae Vitae, Pope St. Paul VI’s encyclical on birth control, was ignored, 50 years later “it’s clear Paul VI was a prophet.”

McIver’s second talk focused on that teaching and Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and how they answer the deepest questions of who we are, what our purpose is, and what our story is.

Married love is, he said, a participation in divine love, and an echo of the words “this is my body, given up for you.”

He emphasized that in the Christian view, “Life is not a series of unrelated episodes … life is an epic,” an epic love story, more akin to “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Princess Bride” than it is to an episode of “Seinfeld.”

He emphasized the importance of giving ourselves in service to others and that chastity is the way we can do that with our sexuality. “Real love is not possible without chastity,” he said.

He also spoke of an approach to presenting these challenging teachings to others, modeled on the approach of Jesus to people like the woman caught in adultery, the rich young man, the Samaritan woman at the well, and Matthew at his customs post. He said we are “to see, to love, and to challenge.”

McIver concluded his presentation with a question and answer session which covered subjects ranging from Drew Brees to the validity of natural family to frozen embryos to healing after you’ve already been sexually active.

The day concluded with Mass, celebrated by Bishop Paul Sirba.

— By Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross

Bishop Paul Sirba: A call to pray in reparation and for mercy

On Oct. 7, we celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary. The date recalls the famous Battle of Lepanto. In preparation for this defensive battle, St. Pius V ordered Christians in the year 1571 to say the Rosary daily, and before the battle, he ordered a day of fasting and prayer. The faithful made pilgrimages to shrines, like the shrine of the holy house of Loretto. He also ordered the troops to live their lives in harmony with Christian morals or teachings. On the day of the battle, the entire Christian army knelt and received Holy Communion.

The battle was a turning point for Christianity in Europe.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

St. Pius V, although 550 miles away from the battle, learned about the victory in a miraculous vision. Two weeks after the vision an official courier arrived with news of the victory. The pope, moved with emotion, attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In gratitude, he inserted a new petition into the Litany of Loretto, “Mary, help of Christians, pray for us.” He also instituted a new feast day, which he named, Our Lady of Victory, declaring that “by the Rosary, the darkness of heresy has been dispelled and the light of the Catholic faith shines out in all its brilliancy.”

Two years later, Pope Gregory XIII changed the new feast’s name to the feast of the Holy Rosary. The date of the celebration varied until St. Pius X transferred the celebration to Oct. 7, the actual date of the battle. Our new Cathedral, dedicated in 1957, was named the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary.

As a Church we are facing numerous challenges. Foremost is dealing with the clergy sex abuse crisis. I will be leading a holy hour and Rosary at the Cathedral on Oct. 7, 2018 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Even if you are not able to be present in person at the Cathedral, please join me wherever you are in praying the Rosary. That is the beauty of this prayer. Not only is the meditation of the mysteries profound prayer — it is so uniquely convenient! I plan on a personal nine day novena of rosaries beginning with Oct 7.

Through our Lady’s intercession, I invite you to join with me and the whole Church to beg God’s mercy. Like King David, bishops and priests “have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13). We have also sinned against our brothers and sisters. Even though the priests who are now serving are not the ones who have abused minors, priests, acting in the person of Jesus Christ, take on the sins of all in their union with Christ, shepherd and head. Jesus saves. He never abandons us. He will heal us if we ask Him, if we beg His mercy.

I also encourage a return to Friday abstinence. Many of you have never lost this practice, but I encourage it again as reparation for these sins, our sins, and the sins of the whole world. Some have recommended a renewal of the Ember Days, the praying of the Penitential Psalms, or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, all worthy forms of prayers of reparation.

The work to purify the Church continues. It begins with me and you. Mary, help of Christians, pray for us. Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

Father Michael Schmitz: What to make of the crisis in the church?

Father, what do you make of what is in the news about the church and scandal?

First, it cannot go without saying that the grand jury report that came out of Pennsylvania is the most horrific and vile thing I have ever read. What priests did to innocent children is beyond shocking. It is absolutely incomprehensible. The further cover-ups and compromises are without excuse. This news is literally the most evil I have ever heard of. Full stop. There is nothing more to be said on that, except that there is a need for the church to do everything possible to care for victims and to be purged of all forms of evil.

Father Mike Schmitz
Father Michael Schmitz
Ask Father Mike

But when there is any kind of issue happening, my initial thought is often to try and make sense of it. Or to try and find the cause for it and then to provide some way an individual or a group might be able to move forward.

I don’t think that I will do that here.

This is a massive turning point in the history of the church. The insane levels of pure evil, along with the foolish, cowardly, and weak response to this evil by members of our leadership, are simply staggering. Even with the reforms of 2002, it sounds like there hasn’t been the thorough cleansing the church has needed. I have no idea where this crisis will lead us, but it is almost entirely unprecedented.

Almost. But not entirely.

We have to note that the Catholic Church in the United States has implemented more rules and regulations to cut down on possible abuse than any other organization. If you have volunteered in your parish, you know that you are to never ever be alone with a minor. This is true for every member of the clergy all the way to a one-time volunteer. I believe that this has helped keep our children safe.

But rules and regulations are not what God has called for. He has been calling for a revolution of sorts. He has been calling for repentance. A top to bottom, front to back, inside out revolution of the heart, mind, and action. And we have not responded. Therefore, God has done what he consistently does with his faithless people: He has allowed their enemies to defeat them.

Remember the story of the Chosen People of God, the Jewish people. Even though God had brought them into covenant relationship with him, they would go through periods where they were unfaithful to that relationship. God would send them prophets, God would give them time, God would provide opportunity for repentance. But if they didn’t truly turn back to him, in his mercy, God would provide a more difficult “opportunity for repentance”: He would allow their enemies to defeat them. This happened with the Assyrians. It happened with the Babylonians. It happened with the Greeks. And this defeat would reveal their need for God and their betrayal of him.

God did this to win them back.

I wonder if God is doing this now, as well. The call to belong fully to Christ has never been more clear. God has sent us prophets and has given us ample time to “clean house,” but we have merely arranged and re-arranged the furniture. So God has allowed our “enemies” to defeat us.

Now, obviously, the media and the government are not our “enemies,” but they are not our friends. More accurately, they are not “with us.” They are not “among our number.” And they have done what we were unwilling or unable to do: They have exposed the sickness that has been allowed to reside in Christ’s church. I have nothing but gratitude for those who have exposed this evil. They have done the work that God had called us to do. And now it is no longer hidden. And now there is a moment of truth.

What will you do? God has done this to win back your heart and my heart. He has done this so that his people might be protected and purified. What will we do?

We must either fully repent or be lost forever. I am not merely referring to the clergy, although we are no doubt included. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “Woe to the shepherds who do not pasture my sheep …. Therefore … I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep …” (Ezekiel 34:10). Priests and bishops, as shepherds, must be the first to be stripped and purified. We (and I mean myself as well) must pick up the tools of penance, fasting, mortifications, prayer, and a life renewed in Christ.

But this is going to be the work of your life as well. Your life, for the rest of your lives and your children’s lives, will have to be marked with the same spirit of conversion and repentance.

Of course, none of us want this. We would rather be able to be “normal” Catholics in “normal” times. But this is not our choice to make. You and I have been created individually by God himself for this time and for this place. He has created your children for this work: the work of renewing the Body of Christ through conversion and repentance.

You likely did little (if anything) to contribute to this crisis. But we also did little to stop it through our own prayers, penances, and actions of justice and courage. Therefore, now is the time. This is the place. And repentance is the work. Brothers and sisters, I am asking you to be bold and be courageous in turning to the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. The Lord has allowed the evil to be seen. Now is the time for the evil to be purged: in the hierarchy, the clergy, the family, and in your life and mine.

Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at fathermikeschmitz@gmail.com.

Deacon Kyle Eller: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?’

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

I came into the church with my eyes pretty wide open.

Deacon Kyle Eller
Deacon Kyle Eller
Mere Catholicism

I was, by God’s grace, received into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2004 — two years after a massive wave of clergy sexual abuse scandals broke in the national media. (I was a journalist for a local secular newspaper myself.)

I knew about Judas, knew the Lord’s words about scandals to come and about the millstones that accompany them. I knew St. Paul’s words about wolves coming among the flock.

I knew, at least vaguely, that there had been evil popes and whole eras in which there had been widespread and horrible corruption among the clergy, including the era that created the Protestant schisms.

So in that respect, this present day crucible of abuse, corruption, and betrayal is not exactly new. There is a whole heresy — Donatism — that arose in the early church from the question of how to respond to gravely sinful clergy, and in particular whether the sacraments they celebrated — all those baptisms, Communions, confessions, marriages — are still valid. (The correct answer: They are.)

Infidelity to God goes back even deeper in salvation history. It’s a central theme in the Old Covenant too.

Back in 2004, my faith was not based on the holiness of clergy. It still isn’t. The fact that I am now numbered among them makes me even more certain how misplaced such a faith would be. Having been ordained some months now, I can report that among the graces of ordination, which are real, I have not found any instant antidote to my own sin. I still have to seek God’s mercy at least as often as I did before I was ordained, and having been given greater responsibility, I know I will face a greater accountability on judgment day. Kyrie eleison.

My faith is in Jesus Christ. And I believed then and believe now that Jesus established the Catholic Church, entrusting its governance to a pope, bishops, priests, and deacons, even though that meant entrusting it to sinful men who are capable of all the worst things the human race is capable of.

“As for me and for my house, we will serve the Lord.”

In the midst of the earthquakes shaking the church over these last weeks, I had the privilege of preaching on a Saturday morning. In the Gospel passage, Jesus tells the crowd to obey the Scribes and the Pharisees who had taken their place on Moses’ seat, but not to follow their example. He goes on to give a scathing indictment of their sins and hypocrisy before teaching what authentic religious leadership looks like — humble, servant leadership suffused with the awareness that we are truly all brothers and sisters before the One true teacher, father, and master.

So Jesus himself distinguishes between the office (and its authority) and the man holding it, while making clear just how direct and honest we can be about clerical sins.

But as I said in my homily, this can be a rather cold comfort.

Because it’s one thing to know, in the abstract and in the intellect, that clergy are sinners too and that Judas, in this life, is always present. It’s another thing entirely to have put before our eyes, for instance, the unspeakable horrors perpetrated against God’s precious little ones detailed in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. (And I know of no reason to believe Pennsylvania is worse than anywhere else.)

Every baptized child or young person and their families and friends are as much the church, as much the Body of Christ, as any deacon, priest, bishop, or pope. And yet what they have suffered — not just abuse but then not being believed and having the crimes covered up by the very people they should have been able to trust to protect them.

Even as I tremble for my own sins and hope on his mercy, I don’t think I have ever been as grateful as I have been these last weeks that God is also just.

My feelings about these things are somewhere near the bottom of the list of what’s important here, but I have felt heartbroken, angry, outraged, betrayed, ashamed, all the things I’m sure everyone else has felt. I am a professional writer and rarely at a loss for words, but I have often stood speechless before this horror.

I weep, too, over this betrayal that has brought into the world’s entirely understandable scorn and contempt the very things I believe are for the ultimate good of every person — the faith to which I have dedicated my life.

What can console our hearts? I often think of the “problem of evil” and how knowing the theological and philosophical answers, while helpful to our minds, sometimes does so little for our hearts. What is perhaps most consoling is to look on the crucifix and see the God who willingly took our suffering on himself and redeemed and transformed it into our salvation.

Something similar might be said here. The same Jesus suffered with every innocent victim of these crimes. What was done to the least of these was done unto him. The same Jesus is again suffering the betrayal of Judas.

And he will make things right.

Pray for the victims of these crimes. Pray for the purification of the church. Pray for those whose faith is shaken. Pray and work for justice.

“Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam ….”

Deacon Kyle Eller is editor of The Northern Cross. Reach him at dcn.kyle.eller@duluthcatholic.org.

Built Upon a Rock Fest returns to Cathedral grounds

One of the signature successes of last year was Built Upon a Rock Fest, which in its first year drew more than 900 people from across the Duluth Diocese out to a free Catholic rock concert on the Holy Rosary Campus of Stella Maris Academy, across the street from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary.

By popular demand, it’s back. And this time it’s not on a school night. It’s set for the evening of Saturday, Sept. 15.

Built Upon a Rock FestMarie Mullen, the festival chairperson and the woman who came up with the idea for the festival last year, said the change was based on feedback from last year that Saturday would be more convenient.

“It works better for people who are traveling from out of town,” she said. “And it’s nice to have the option of attending Mass before the concert as well.”

Another change this year is that to make the sacrament of reconciliation more readily available, there will be two private, outdoor confessionals on the grounds that will make it easier for people to go starting from when the concert begins, at 6:30 p.m., and running right through Benediction at 9 p.m.

The food — the free food — is also being streamlined this year.

“We had some long lines last year pretty much the whole event,” Mullen said. “I don’t think it will be a problem this year with the changes we made.”

New artists

Like last year, two artists will perform at Built Upon a Rock Fest, but the lineup is new. The headliner is Ike Ndolo, a Catholic recording artist from Arizona. Mullen says he is popular playing at Lifeteen and Stubenville events.

“I would describe his music as folk-rock, although his new record that he will be debuting at the concert seems to have a fresh electronic-type sound, which is different from his previous album but still very cool,” she said. “He’s a great performer, and it will be exciting to see the energy he brings to the stage, singing with passion about his faith and his love for God.”

The opening act is a familiar name in the region: Luke Spehar, a talented musician and faithful Catholic from St. Paul who has family ties in Duluth.

“I would describe his sound as modern folk with some hints of country,” Mullen said.

Community support

While Built Upon a Rock Fest is a lay-led event, it has received support from the Diocese of Duluth and, this year, from the neighboring Diocese of Superior. Thirty-three parishes have contributed, along with 21 sponsoring businesses or organizations, Mullen said, and the Knights of Columbus, the “platinum level sponsor,” contributed $10,000.

“A big part of the vision for this is that the concert remains completely free and open to the public,” Mullen said. “And offering free food and drink is meant to reflect the goodness and generosity of God and his church. People are invited to come enjoy this gift truly, with no strings attached. Our sponsors and donors have given this gift to them out of love, seeking nothing in return. I think that’s so beautiful.”

Mullen said she also feels it comes at an important time.

“Especially in this time of confusion and uncertainty in the church, it is important for us to unite in faith with renewed vigor,” she said. “God’s glory will be known through the rise of the faithful in the church. Knowing there is such diversity and wide-ranging support for this event proves that there is so much good in the church and a longing for unity. I pray that anyone who is discouraged or feeling scandalized right now will come out to the concert on the 15th. I know they will be uplifted.”

If you go

The festival is free, and no tickets or reservations are required. Events begin with Mass at the Cathedral at 5 p.m. Gates for the concert will open at 6 p.m., and the opening act, Luke Spehar, begins his show at 6:15 p.m. Ike Ndolo will begin at 7:30 p.m., and the event concludes with Benediction in the Cathedral at 9:30 p.m. For more information, see www. builtuponarockfest.com.

— By Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross

Diocese of Duluth statement on the Father Graham case

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 24, 2018
The Diocese of Duluth issued the following statement in light of yesterday’s court ruling involving the Rev. William Graham and a man who has accused him of sexual abuse:
“The diocese was not a party to this lawsuit, which was commenced by Father William Graham against a private citizen. The diocese’s commitment is to the safety of children. In that vein, after a thorough and deliberate process, Father Graham was determined to have been credibly accused of abusing a minor, and accordingly has been removed from ministry. Bishop Sirba stands by that decision, which has been affirmed by the Vatican. The judge in the case ruled that the diocese did not have to provide the documents of its internal investigation to the court. We continue to pray for all involved.”
Background on internal investigation:
After first reporting the accusation against Father Graham to civil authorities, the diocese immediately placed him on administrative leave and then conducted its own internal investigation into the accusation against him. The investigation was conducted by an outside, experienced, independent investigator who reported his findings to the diocese’s Review Board. The Review Board, made up of 10 individuals who are experienced in social work, psychology, education, law, law enforcement, and medicine, reviewed the investigator’s report and supporting detail, met with and questioned extensively the independent investigator, and then made its unanimous recommendation to Bishop Sirba for his consideration. The consensus was that there existed sufficient credible evidence to substantiate the allegation or support the conclusion that the allegation could be substantiated. In accordance with church law, the bishop then contacted the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican and obtained its guidance concerning Father Graham. As a result, Bishop Sirba removed Father Graham from public ministry. This removal remains in effect.
The Diocese of Duluth is committed to offering assistance to anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct on the part of clergy and strongly encourages anyone who has been a victim of sexual abuse to report such abuse to the civil authorities and to the Diocese of Duluth.
Addendum:
RESPONSE TO ANDERSON’S ACCUSATIONS
At Mr. Davis’ request, Bishop Sirba testified under oath 18 month ago on the issue of any employment contract with Father Graham. Contrary to Mr. Anderson’s office’s assertion, Bishop Sirba did not refuse to testify at trial. Rather, the attorney for Mr. Davis demanded the Bishop appear at trial on unreasonably short notice, which did not allow adequate time for Bishop Sirba to adjust his schedule. The Court agreed and excused Bishop from having to appear at trial.
# # #

Bishop Paul Sirba: Sins behind abuse crisis must be ‘confessed, rooted out, and repaired’

I know the answer is Jesus Christ. Hope is found in the dying and rising of Jesus. The day of restoration and renewal will happen through the mercy of Jesus and our full cooperation in the work of the Redemption of Jesus Christ. I can also hear Jesus saying, “I’ve got this.”

For the past five years, in a more intense way — the first revelations go back to the 1980s and 1990s — Catholics in the state of Minnesota have been exposed to the sins of the Church’s priests and bishops. Now the Church in Pennsylvania and across the nation has had to look at the horrendous sin of sexual abuse of minors and the failures of the Church in protecting the people of God, yet again.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

We need to name the shame, anger, and sadness. The sexual abuse of minors, episcopal failures, cover-ups and enabling behaviors, homosexual subcultures in the priesthood, and sins against celibacy must be confessed, rooted out, and repaired. To quote Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the USCCB, “We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report.”

When it comes the crime of the abuse of minors, our hearts break open as sordid details call for independent investigations and the work of very trusted lay faithful to assist the bishops within the Church to remedy the problems. In the tumult, we must never lose our focus of providing healing for the victims and help for those who have been hurt and preventing this sin in the future.

Our experience of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Diocese of Duluth is unique to us in some ways, but the underlying sinful human condition is universal and will be brought to light across our nation and our world. While we have been living with the crisis most recently through our bankruptcy, we have to be spiritually prepared for whatever new revelations may come to light in other parts of the Body of Christ, as well. This purification, although excruciatingly painful, is necessary for healing. The light of Christ scatters the darkness of sin and evil.

The Scriptures that come to mind for me are: “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:2), the parable of the weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-8). These and other sacred texts provide ample reflection for my personal conversion and institutional change.

I have said that the protection of our youth and providing the safest environment for our young people is the work of our lifetime. I know our efforts in the Diocese of Duluth have made a difference. As a diocese we will continue to offer prayers for healing and reparation. I ask the clergy, religious, and lay faithful to pray and fast so as to lead the Church to enact canonical changes that hold bishops accountable, protect men discerning a call to the priesthood, and lead to new mechanisms of holding bishops accountable that have never been in place before to safeguard our children and restore trust.

I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what I and my fellow bishops have done or failed to do. I am sorry for anyone who has been hurt and the scandal caused in the Body of Christ.

Bishop Paul D. Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.

President of U.S. Bishops’ Conference Announces Effort That Will Involve Laity, Experts, and the Vatican as U.S. Bishops Resolve to Address ‘Moral Catastrophe’

August 16, 2018

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, has issued the following statement after a series of meetings with members of the USCCB’s Executive Committee and other bishops. The following statement includes three goals and three principles, along with initial steps of a plan that will involve laity, experts, and the Vatican. A more developed plan will be presented to the full body of bishops at their general assembly meeting in Baltimore in November.

Cardinal DiNardo’s full statement follows:

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Two weeks ago, I shared with you my sadness, anger, and shame over the recent revelations concerning Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Those sentiments continue and are deepened in light of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report. We are faced with a spiritual crisis that requires not only spiritual conversion, but practical changes to avoid repeating the sins and failures of the past that are so evident in the recent report. Earlier this week, the USCCB Executive Committee met again and established an outline of these necessary changes.

The Executive Committee has established three goals: (1) an investigation into the questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick; (2) an opening of new and confidential channels for reporting complaints against bishops; and (3) advocacy for more effective resolution of future complaints. These goals will be pursued according to three criteria: proper independence, sufficient authority, and substantial leadership by laity.

We have already begun to develop a concrete plan for accomplishing these goals, relying upon consultation with experts, laity, and clergy, as well as the Vatican. We will present this plan to the full body of bishops in our November meeting. In addition, I will travel to Rome to present these goals and criteria to the Holy See, and to urge further concrete steps based on them.

The overarching goal in all of this is stronger protections against predators in the Church and anyone who would conceal them, protections that will hold bishops to the highest standards of transparency and accountability.

Allow me to briefly elaborate on the goals and criteria that we have identified.

The first goal is a full investigation of questions surrounding Archbishop McCarrick. These answers are necessary to prevent a recurrence, and so help to protect minors, seminarians, and others who are vulnerable in the future. We will therefore invite the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation to address these questions, in concert with a group of predominantly lay people identified for their expertise by members of the National Review Board and empowered to act.

The second goal is to make reporting of abuse and misconduct by bishops easier. Our 2002 “Statement of Episcopal Commitment” does not make clear what avenue victims themselves should follow in reporting abuse or other sexual misconduct by bishops. We need to update this document. We also need to develop and widely promote reliable third-party reporting mechanisms. Such tools already exist in many dioceses and in the public sector and we are already examining specific options.

The third goal is to advocate for better procedures to resolve complaints against bishops. For example, the canonical procedures that follow a complaint will be studied with an eye toward concrete proposals to make them more prompt, fair, and transparent and to specify what constraints may be imposed on bishops at each stage of that process.

We will pursue these goals according to three criteria.

The first criterion is genuine independence. Any mechanism for addressing any complaint against a bishop must be free from bias or undue influence by a bishop. Our structures must preclude bishops from deterring complaints against them, from hampering their investigation, or from skewing their resolution.

The second criterion relates to authority in the Church. Because only the Pope has authority to discipline or remove bishops, we will assure that our measures will both respect that authority and protect the vulnerable from the abuse of ecclesial power.

Our third criterion is substantial involvement of the laity. Lay people bring expertise in areas of investigation, law enforcement, psychology, and other relevant disciplines, and their presence reinforces our commitment to the first criterion of independence.

Finally, I apologize and humbly ask your forgiveness for what my brother bishops and I have done and failed to do. Whatever the details may turn out to be regarding Archbishop McCarrick or the many abuses in Pennsylvania (or anywhere else), we already know that one root cause is the failure of episcopal leadership. The result was that scores of beloved children of God were abandoned to face an abuse of power alone. This is a moral catastrophe. It is also part of this catastrophe that so many faithful priests who are pursuing holiness and serving with integrity are tainted by this failure.

We firmly resolve, with the help of God’s grace, never to repeat it. I have no illusions about the degree to which trust in the bishops has been damaged by these past sins and failures. It will take work to rebuild that trust. What I have outlined here is only the beginning; other steps will follow. I will keep you informed of our progress toward these goals.

Let me ask you to hold us to all of these resolutions. Let me also ask you to pray for us, that we will take this time to reflect, repent, and recommit ourselves to holiness of life and to conform our lives even more to Christ, the Good Shepherd.