Priests' group says it's 'sad, angry, frustrated' by abuse scandals

By Dennis Sadowski

(CNS) — The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests said its members are “sad … angry … frustrated” over continued reports involving fellow priests
and a lack of accountability by bishops.

every level, our church is in pain,” the 1,200-member organization said
Aug. 17.

The organization
cited concerns over a Pennsylvania grand jury report that recounts seven
decades of child sex abuse claims throughout six Catholic dioceses in the state, the recent resignation
of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick from the College of Cardinals over allegations he is an abuser, an investigation into alleged improper
activities at a Boston seminary, and clergy abuse in Australia and Chile.

Father Bob
Bonnot, chairman of the association’s leadership team, told Catholic News Service
that repeated revelations about improper clergy behavior are “something
that has flared up more frequently than any of us wish to remember.”

suffer with the Catholic people. While all of us priests and the Catholic people
are not suffering nearly as much as the families and the individuals who have
been abused, we need to let them know we’re suffering too,” said the
retired priest of the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio.

need recognition and encouragement that they’re not alone in their
feelings,” Father Bonnot added.

organization’s statement also serves to support the vast majority of Catholic clergy
who have not been accused of wrongdoing and “to raise the voice of hope
and joy, a pastoral voice to those within the church and society,” he said.

association offered a series of recommendations to Catholic leaders as they
formulate their response to resolve the challenges posed by the recent
revelations. First on the list was a call to “those responsible for the
scandals” who “must publicly apologize and ask forgiveness for what they have
done and what they have failed to do.”

statement also repeated the organization’s call for reform of the seminary
formation process “to make it effective and adequate for our times.”

In March,
the priests’ organization called for revisions in the way seminarians are prepared for ministry so that the U.S. Catholic Church
can better address challenges that include declining membership and falling
seminary enrollment. It urged that priests get closer to the people they
serve and better understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus as
envisioned by Pope Francis.

formation must include faithfulness to the outcome of the Second Vatican
Council, a call to a life of service to God and God’s people, and
“authentic human psychosexual development” of seminarians, the
association said. In addition, it called for women to be involved in the “formation
and decisive discernment of candidates for priesthood and integrated at every
level, from top to bottom, in the power structure of the church.”

association’s stance earlier was detailed in a March 29 letter and eight-page
document addressed to Cardinal
Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, chairman of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. The
committee, is reviewing the Program
for Priestly Formation, the fifth and most recent edition of which was
published in 2006. Committee members are expecting to submit revisions for a
new edition of the guide at the November 2019 USCCB fall general assembly.

The new
statement also offered prayers that all members of the church, including clergy
and laypeople be given “the strength to root out the pride and ambition
of clericalism and its scandalous behavior.”

the association offered support to Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of
Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, for his efforts to investigate the
situation surrounding Archbishop McCarrick, establish a new channel for
reporting complaints against bishops and advocacy for more effective resolution
of future complaints.

While the
AUSCP represents a minority of priests, Father Bonnot said the organization
felt it was important to respond to the rash of new related to clergy abuse by offering
a “constructive and collaborative contribution to the issues we all

“If we
don’t speak, there is nothing for them to hear,” he told CNS.

“We want
to be party to continue the effort to abolish this kind of behavior and the kind
of attitude that leads to that behavior.”

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Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @Dennis Sadowski

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