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Evansville, Indiana
February 21, 1997     The Message
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February 21, 1997
 

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The MeSsage -- for C :,holics of Southwestern Indiana Bishop's Forum How often I have written of and events remembered" forum. the First Sun- 1996, I presided and at all the Masses at Holy Evansville. I with and pray with a the sad and that their resigned Was Under investigation for hic I went as sadness ray concern for each By BISHOPs GERALD A. GETTELFINGER reading for that Sunday related It is a graphic story of how of God was three'times sorely tempted The desert morning, as is my custom, I went Store to buy the New York Times. Also, noted the headlines in the Indianapolis Indianapolis 28 years. stark. They were stunning. my sadness of a year ago. The first articles concerning the sexual abuse of people and adults by priests page. story was not referring to our dio- rn our Church, the Catholic Is no minimizing of the pain and d by immoral and crimi- It is unfathomable. The damage and trust of innocent priests in L is equally immeasurable. It is most them. ' sinful and sick'priests did is a betrayal of and public trust given to all priests by their ordination, a sacred trust. The damage cannot be repaired. We do know that the sin of a few has touched us. It is a harsh reminder to each of us that no mat- ter the sin, it is not private; it has an effect on every member of the Church, known or unknown, for the Church is diminished by it. What is a bishop to say to par- ents when they ask: "What am I to tell my children about this?" What is a bishop to say to parishes devastated by the wrongdoing of a trusted priest and minister? what is a bishop to say to a diocese tortured by the sad news of priestly weakness, priestly sin? I honestly don't know. This bishop does not have a completely consoling answer to any of those questions. I must answer it by asking that each one of us consider the price of our redemption from our broken nature. Hope is not lost. Jesus' desert experience provides that hope in spite of all the human suffering caused by the weakness and wrongdoing of our brothers and sisters. The desert is a harsh place. In the minds of many in Jesus' time, it was the home of devils. Any prophet worth his salt had to make a desert journey . into the very abode of evil and survive it. Jesus did it. He survived it. In doing so he left us a model in overcoming temptation. It is self-dis- cipline. He gives us more, for the human condition is weak. The desert experience of Jesus does remind us, however, that without the grace he won for us through his suffering and death on the cross, this, our desert experience, would be completely impossi- ble. We would be doomed to failure. Satan would win. With the grace Jesus gives us, even the gravest difficulty can be met. Not only can our appetites be brought into control, but we can also overcome Satan himself. Our worry and wonderment at public reports of "private sin" is not washed away. As your pastor, I walk with you. I want to reassure you I will do my best to defend and protect you as your bishop. The bishop's staff is a symbol of fending off the enemy. Unfortunately, I cannot remove the pain and anguish caused by others. As you and I strive to be faithful in our desert experience, all of you must know that accusations of abuse of children, young people, or adults by any official holding public trust in our diocese will be dealt with immediately and thoroughly. Violations of sacred trust by a priest, a reli- gious or a lay person will not be tolerated. Each and every accusation of wrongdoing will be taken seriously. where there are accusations of wrongdoing by any of our leaders, we will make reports to appro- priate agencies and collaborate fully. We pledge full cooperation with all law enforcement officers. In the meantime, we must give encouragement and support to our priests, religious and lay per- sons who step forward with the commitment of their lives in service to the community of faith. We must not allow the sins of a few, a modern day Satan, to tempt us into the sin of self-right- eousness. We must not lose confidence in the many good and faithful ministers serving us daily. Rather let them and their example uplift us beyond our personal inadequacies and the failure of a few. Together let us prayerfully support each other throughout these days of Lent. This is our desert experience here and now. LEINGANG s, allegations of abuse have Church. e has Was established In regard to to all religious Of an accusation Diocesan policy described of sexual abuse or misconduct involving any employee of the Catholic Diocese of Evansville, diocesan policy calls for imme- diate action. The specified action includes confronting the person accused, offering assistance to the person making the accusa- tion, and cooperating with civil authorities. The person in charge in such a case would be the Vicar General or another person designated by the bishop. He would be assisted by an attorney who serves as legal counsel for the diocese. These are the steps that would be involved. * The bishop's delegate and the attorney would respond to the person making the accusation, confront the person accused, report to the proper civil author- ities, comply with all applicable state and federal laws, and advise the bishop about the situation. The bishop would begin appropriate proceedings with respect to the person accused, in compliance with canon law and civil law. Pending further inves- tigation, the accused person is placed on administrative leave. If the accused person is a priest, he is suspended from his priest- ly functions. * The bishop's delegate meets with the person making the accusation, to offer assistance as needed or appropriate. The bishop's delegate, in col- laboration with the attorney, leads the investigation and reports his findings to the bishop The bishop may decide that the person accused should be referred for professional evalu- ation. If warranted by the investi- gation and the evaluation, the assignment of a cleric or the job of a lay person will be terminated. of our times: Modern 'miracles' or diversions from truth? Service (CNS) _ have since the ani- on mnel that a 15- which Pope up and told for one, the mir- said Feb. 9. mira. doctrinal of trying mri. Super- hear- Catholic Meanwhile, other churches were experiencing a similar sea- son of signs. In Cyprus in early February, thousands of Ortho- dox Christians made a pilgrim- age to an icon of Mary said to have been weeping for a week. Before that, it was a crying painting of Jesus in Jerusalem. . and the list goes on and on. For Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the Vatiean's Pontifical Council for Culture, all these events are signs of our times. Ours is an age, he said, that has moved beyond purely rational- istic answers. "Ibday we realize that science explains the mechanical nature of things, but remains silent in front of basic questions like: Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going?", he said. But can miracles or appari- tions provide answers in the late 20th century? "The good God has a bigger head than I do... and he knows what to do," the cardinal said. He cited Pope John XXIlrs observation, however, that while many people seek comfort in apparitions, they risk overlook- ing the obvious miracle of Christ's salvation. For some, it may be easier to see a "miracu- lous" sign on a wall. There is also the chance that well-meaning Catholics can be mistaken or tricked into lending faith to "signs" that turn out to be something else. That's one reason church authorities take a long time w often many years to investigate the events, the cardinal said. For example, alleged Marian apparitions at the Bosnian sanc- tuary of Medjugorje have been under examination by the Con- gregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for several years, and there is no indication that their study is nearing conclusion. The same fate could await the crying statue of Civitavecchia, a port city north of Rome, where Bishop Girolamo Grillo said he would relay his theological com- mission's favorable findings to doctrinal officials at the Vatican. Yet it seemed like the case was being handled like a hot potato at the Vatican. When asked about it at a press confer- ence in January, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the head of the doc- trinal congregation, said the judgment was up to Bishop Grillo. Some wondered if Bishop Grillo could be dispassionately objective: he has said he per- sonally watched the statue cry blood as he held it in his own hands. Anyway, he commented recently, miracles are not "so unusual. =It is evident that miracles occur in the world, and only a stubbornly blind person would deny it," he said. Last year, the Vatican's doc- trinal congregation noted the large number of apparitions and "miraculous" signs being report- ed around the globe., and empha- sized the responsibility of local bishops in such matters. At the same time, it said, the Vatican maintains a role of'orientation and vigilance" over these events. A particular cause for con- cern, the congregation said, was that groups of faithful often press for recognition of pre- sumed apparitions, "even when this goes against decisions of the hierarchy." One reason the Vatican may not always appear enthusiastic about new apparitions, mes- sages or miraculous signs is that the church teaches that public revelation ended with the New Testament; private revelations can be authentic, but they don't add anything to what we already know about our faith. One fear is that today's Catholics may devote more attention to "signs" than to the basic Christian beliefs. A recent pre-synod document for the Americas warned that "the mul- tiplication of supposed 'appari- tions" or isions' is sowing con- fus/on and reveals a certain lack of a solid basis to the faith and Christian life among her mem- bers." In places like Civitavecchia, where plans for a major sanctu- ary, hotels and a shopping cen- ter have already been drawn up, ommereial interests inevitably raise additional  about the purpose and effect of sup- posed miracles. Yet officials like Cardinal Ratzinger have been careful not to exclude a value in such signs. They may not be necessary to the faith, the cardinal once said, but they can demonstrate that "revelation is not dead, that it is living and vital."