Diocese of La Crosse Bishop William Callahan says he and other Catholic bishops who normally welcome the “quiet rest and prayer” of their annual retreat will spend much of the time “sharing our deepest and profoundly sad feelings” about the most recent developments in the Catholic Church’s persistent pedophilia problem.
Those developments “once again plunge the Church into a dark hour of shame and disappointment — especially in Her leadership. The first news about Archbishop (Theodore) McCarrick was indeed shocking and upsetting,” Callahan says in a message written to the faithful and posted in most church bulletins Sunday.
The Diocese of La Crosse covers much of west central Wisconsin, including Chippewa County.
Callahan was referring to the recent resignation of McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, from the College of Cardinals. On July 28, Pope Francis ordered McCarrick to a “life of prayer and penance” because of allegations that he had sexually abused minors and adult seminarians over several decades.
Callahan’s letter, labeled “A ‘Moral Catastrophe’ and a Test of Virtue,” the full text of which is available on the La Crosse Diocese’s website, also cites “the revelations concerning the unraveling of the incredible and disgusting stories of sexual molestations that took place over the decades in so many parts of the Church in Pennsylvania.”
That reference was to a grand jury report issued Aug. 14 alleging that six of the eight dioceses in Pennsylvania had covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years. The report alleged that more than 1,000 victims have been identified and cited the likelihood of thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to report the abuse.
“Of course, I am personally touched and deeply grieved by these events — not only because I am a bishop but because so many of the faithful are being struck with the tragedy of having their faith assaulted once again,” Callahan wrote.
“I don’t know how many bishops and/or priests should or will be affected by the darkness of this new wave of scandal. I do believe that all of us need to try to remember that the devil never sleeps.
“He works some of his most diabolical evil on those who are weak and have lost their recognition of God’s Grace and care in human life,” the letter said.
Callahan invoked the words of 1 Peter 5:8-10: “Be sober, be watchful; your adversary the devil prowls about the world seeking someone to devour: Resist him, steadfast in the faith!”
Decrying the fact “that evil has come about from some of the very shepherds who were supposed to protect us,” Callahan wrote, “More than ever, we must cling to the cross, pray with the Scriptures and receive the Sacraments. Continue to pray for good and holy priests. They need your prayers to remain courageous in these days.”
In conclusion, Callahan urges, “Remain faithful and strong — Jesus Christ has conquered evil. His is the Power. His is the Glory!”
Even as some allege that the Vatican knew of the Pennsylvania situation, the pope denounced the abuse during a meeting with abuse survivors Saturday, describing the corruption and cover-up as “caca,” according to reports on the meeting.
The pope’s translator conveyed “caca” as “filth as one sees in a toilet,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said in recounting the meeting as director of the Holy See Press Office.