Dear Fellow Parishioners,
I spent a good part of my day off writing this week’s “Pastor’s Desk” before receiving Bishop Vasa’s statement on the diocese’s intention to file for bankruptcy protection. His statement is sobering to read, as it provides the frankest and fullest account of events leading up to this bankruptcy filing. Though it is a lot of information to take in, I am grateful to him for his clarity and forthrightness. I am introducing his statement in the Pastor’s Desk because I believe you would rather hear directly through your pastor than third-hand through the secular media or another source.
This is uncharted territory for nearly all of us. Sixteen dioceses in the U.S. have filed and emerged from bankruptcy, including two in California– Stockton and San Diego. So have the Boy Scouts of America. This is not a club anyone wants to belong to, but we are not alone, and others will likely follow.
The difficult news is that this process may last two or three years, or possibly longer. The burden will be borne almost exclusively by people, laity and clergy alike, who have done no wrong. The encouraging news is, once this process is properly completed, we will be done, and not subject to further suits arising from past allegations of abuse.
I have worked closely with Bishop Vasa on several projects over the years. While we have different approaches to many things, I consider him a skilled, conscientious and honest administrator. We are fortunate to have his steady hand at this time. We can also be thankful that, after two decades of strong child and youth protection practices, our churches and schools are among the very safest places for children and young people to be.
It is important that we not be consumed by this even as we work toward a just resolution. There are families and businesses in our parish who have gone through bankruptcy, and emerged chastened but able to move on. While I believe the real danger here is emotional and spiritual, this 165-year-old parish, its families and its clergy, have tremendous residual strength.
Whatever difficulties we will face, we must face them as people of faith and not lose heart. Some will respond to this with spiteful glee, and many hyped-up, ugly and even false things are certain to be said, in the media and elsewhere. Others will be dismayed yet again, as I am, by the past conduct of some which has harmed so many. There are things at stake far more important than money, or even good reputation. The past sins of others must not become occasions of sin for us now.
Last Monday’s Mass reading, from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans, says, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I will continue to be as open with you as circumstances permit, in the weeks and months to come. I would ask that we dedicate a portion of our Lenten prayer for the healing of victims of abuse whatever the source, and for the spiritual and temporal good of our parish, its people and ministries.
In Christ, our Lord,
Rev. William P. Donahue, Pastor