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August 11, 2019

One of the most obvious statements one could make about the church right now, is that it is going through some incredible difficulties. I hesitate to say that these difficulties are the greatest we’ve faced in our history, because we’ve been through a lot. However, I think it’s fair to say that the current struggles are greater than most, at least in modern history. The credibility and witness of the institutional church has been corroded and utterly compromised. 

On January 6, 2002, the Boston Globe published the first of a long series of articles that exposed horrific crimes and a woeful tale of inadequate responses on the part of the institutional church. While the national headline-grabbing stories seem to be fewer and fewer these days, the reality is that as a church we will always be living with this reality. A little over a year ago, national headlines focused on the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. It’s publication reminded all of us that the stain of this particular and criminal evil will be with us in perpetuity, and we all live with the consequences, whether ordained or not.

In this last year, there were two other “inconceivable” stories that grabbed the national spotlight, once again leaving the Church vulnerable and humiliated. A once-respected former Cardinal and Archbishop of Washington, Theodore McCarrick, was found to have been involved in crimes himself, and since has lost all position and status within the Church. 

More recently, there was yet another Bishop who was recently found to be fiscally irresponsible and he was removed from his position following a Vatican investigation.

I’ve also been attentive to the increasingly and disturbingly common attacks on Pope Francis by self-declared “faithful”. There are political wranglings afoot in the Church, I perceive, and they are very apparent in the Church of the US. There’s a lot of money moving as wealthy and influential interests are increasingly blatant in their manipulation of media and in their attacks. 

I’m sure that many of us simply raise our eyebrows, now, whenever a “new” scandal is reported. I know that I certainly do.

For some reason, it appears that these more recent reports have taken a deeper toll on people. I don’t know that the scandals are any more scandalous, or that the reporting is any more clear. I know that as one who is ordained to service and who bears responsibility for the care of this parish community, I find myself struggling a lot more to hold all the different pieces that seem to be swirling.  

For this reason, I am grateful for the opportunity to gather with my fellow priests of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Later this month, the Archbishop has called us all to a meeting to reflect on where we’re at and how we’re looking to the future. It might sound odd, but this will be the first time in almost twenty years that the priests of the Archdiocese have gathered for a meeting that will involve our sharing experiences as well as time for prayer together and for some reflection on themes to be presented in an effort to help us ground our experiences in the spiritual as well as the practical realities of our lives. 

The absence of all Archdiocesan Priests for the duration of our meeting will necessitate some flexibility on the part of our parishioners who are so used to the regularity of our weekly schedule. There will be a few days at the end of the month when our regular schedule of services will be suspended. Elsewhere in the bulletin there are details about this. 

In the meantime, I invite your prayers for the priests of the parish who will be gathering with their more than 300 brother priests from across all the parishes of the Archdiocese. Your spiritual and prayerful support will be greatly appreciated during this time of coming apart from the usual work of our lives to spend time in prayerful reflection and renewal.

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