‘Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering …’
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together … but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10: 23-25
Since the printing of the last issue of The Key much has happened. I would like to address some of those developments, and then a bit about our holy communion as the Family of God in this diocese.
First, the day after the last issue of The Key went to press, I learned that the Missouri Attorney General’s office had been invited by the Archdiocese of St. Louis to review their files. Upon accepting, the Attorney General in turn invited the other Missouri dioceses to take part in a similar review. I have accepted his invitation and my staff and I will cooperate, relying on the Attorney General’s office to assist us in complying with federal and state law, in particular, HIPAA, that is, federal law restricting access to medical records, to accomplish a trustworthy review. We will also work with the Attorney General to ensure that victims and witnesses involved in reports of abuse will have their privacy protected. I expect this review to take place in the coming weeks and months.
Several days later, the former papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Viganò, released a testimonial to the press making several serious claims that many high-level Church leaders had knowledge of Archbishop McCarrick’s gravely immoral conduct years ago but failed to take action. Chief among his claims was that he had himself informed Pope Francis of McCarrick’s depraved actions five years ago. The ensuing week has been marked with debate and varied reaction. The claims are significant because of who has made them; Archbishop Viganò is generally regarded as a man of integrity by those who know him and have worked with him. And it makes it even more important that the bishops embrace Cardinal DiNardo’s stated commitment to pursue the truth of why and how Archbishop McCarrick was able to continue in public ministry and advance through the hierarchy when his sexual misconduct and abuse of power were already known. The pursuit of truth is necessary to both purify the Church and preserve our communion, as well as protect innocent men from being unjustly accused.
The recent events are cause for serious self-reflection. When I became your bishop, I pledged to make the protection of children and young people a “core value” of our diocese. We have made real progress on many fronts through solid safe environment programs to protect children and all in the church; we have strong protocols to report and investigate allegations of abuse of minors to civil authorities; we have increased our efforts to support and accompany victims. But we can do even more. I am intent on exploring further how we can respond in each of these areas and be our best.
Lastly, I want to encourage everyone. I believe the risen Christ would want us to see this as a time for us to renew our confidence in him and his love for us, his Church. As Catholic Christians, we know the Church is not merely a human organization, but a creation of the Holy Spirit—our Mother and the Bride of Christ. She is a loving mother who opens her arms to all sinners, and often those who belong to her wound her and mar her appearance. But, we cannot speak of Him without her, and as the great theologian, Henri de Lubac, once said, “for what would we know of Him without her?” The Church made up of frail, weak and sinful people, is also the Church we confess to be, “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic” every Sunday. It is the Church not only of earth, but also of heaven, the communion of saints.
We are called to live through this important chapter of our Church’s long history. It is a critical moment, and critical moments call for saints. Perhaps we can all strive to respond with that in mind, realizing that every one of us can do something to make this better somehow. I thought of the encouraging verses from the Letter to the Hebrews above as a good place to start, and will end by repeating them again: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together … but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
+ Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr.
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph
Catholic Key, September 13, 2018 issue