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Letter to Saint Mary’s Community on critical events in the Catholic Church

August 22, 2018

News Presidents Update

Dear Members of the Saint Mary’s University Community and Friends:

Recent critical events in the Catholic Church have given me pause to reflect on how essential is the role of the Catholic University in the face of great tragedy. What we have learned in the news and from our leadership impacts so many members of the Church and thus our community and as such it demands some response. I have consulted with university leadership and there is a consensus that since we are a Catholic and Lasallian university our response needs to depend upon knowledge, analysis, and especially prayer. We have many bright minds here at Saint Mary’s, as well as people with pastoral and professional skills, and these professionals will, I hope, be part of strategies and movement forward. We are a community of faith here at Saint Mary’s and I hope our members will be part of the prayer and love needed to move us forward. We also have a wonderful Christian Brothers community and a Catholic seminary on our campus along with a relationship with the Bishop and priests of the Diocese of Winona – Rochester. These men, young and old, will need our support and encouragement as we move forward.  On this feast of the Queenship of Mary, Patroness of our University, let us entrust them all to her maternal care.

These are very difficult days for the Church. Tragically, the serious sin and abuse by some priests and bishops (and the blind eye of others in authority) has harmed many good souls. Power has been abused and what should be rightful authority has been used illegitimately. These events have also become for some an occasion for vengeance and revenge. Further, it also reminds us that for some in our Saint Mary’s community, who are of other faith traditions or who profess no faith, may also have been victims of sexual abuse by leaders and so we join with them in solidarity and prayer for healing. All of this leaves many feeling disheartened, angry, and disconsolate. The behavior that got us to this place is morally wrong and in many cases criminal. Those who have committed crimes will make restitution as the courts determine it. In the midst of all this, we as a community of learners, scholars, and believers must chart a new course. I would propose a course based upon Christ and His gospel message of “repent and believe the good news” for truly He is the Good News and has the words of life.

We cannot undo the past but we can learn from it, resolve to be a better Church and a better people in the future, to live a different way today because of what we know. We are called to be people of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness. We are called to be a people of hope and prayer, especially that this sin will occur no more. We are all called to repentance and change of heart even as we are keenly aware that the sins of some members do not spoil the whole Church nor the good She does. We are in need of more good, faith-filled brothers, priests, Bishops, seminarians, and leaders. We are all in need of the prayers and support of one another. As a Catholic university, over the long term, we can continue to put our minds to use to become part of the solution to what has ailed us and more immediately we can unite in prayer and sacrifice. Today as a university we heard our keynote speaker Ms. Liz Huntley, Esq., speak of the importance of having people who exhibited virtue and character help to transform her life after she suffered serious abuse. This underscores even more urgently a presidential initiative that will be part of this year of inauguration, i.e., to host a series of talks on the Cardinal virtues and begin plans for a university wide character development program. Furthermore, I would like to ask, for the good of the Church and for all who lead, and for the renewal of all priests, brothers, sisters, deacons, Bishops, and lay faithful, that we join together in intentional prayer. I have some practical suggestions which can be found here. May God grant us all His peace and compassion in this time of need.