What I Wanted To Say (Part 1)
Updated: Jan 25, 2019
Anyone who knows me in real life understands that I am a planner. I like to come into any situation super well-prepared (although I do try to leave room in the moment for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, per Matthew 10:19-20). So, naturally, I spent several days preparing for my meeting with the Archbishop, sorting through tons of notes and ideas, trying to decide what approach would be most helpful and what things would be most important to say. Of course, no good meeting goes according to some strict outline, and no matter who I’m talking to, I try to let go of my “plan” in response to their comments and questions. But still, it’s helpful as a way to organize my thoughts and pray through my approach.
Anyway, since I put so much time into this plan, and it’s a good summary of some of my current thoughts, I thought it might be helpful to share with all of you. To make it easier to read, just imagine you’re hearing me talk to the Archbishop…
Archbishop, thank you for meeting with me today. I know that you are very busy, and I really appreciate you making the time for this conversation. As you know, I was at the Listening Session you hosted back in October, and I wanted to meet with you to follow up and ask how I can help serve the Church right now.
First, it might help to know where I am coming from: Over the past few months, I have been feeling called by God to help the Church in this difficult time. I have spent a LOT of time researching, so I feel like I have a pretty firm grasp of the current situation. I have read all of the materials available on the Archdiocesan website, all of your letters and homilies that I could find, and I’ve been trying to keep up with the news from throughout the country about the crisis. I even watched the entire video stream of the USCCB General Assembly back in November! I recently left my position in parish ministry, but before that, I was part of a really great staff team who helped our parishes respond with witness talks, printed resources, and listening sessions. Most importantly, I have been having lots of honest conversations with lay people throughout the Archdiocese, trying to really understand their thoughts and feelings and what they need from the Church right now. Now that I have wrapped up my job, I have more time available to be fully engaged with this issue. In this new season of life, I have been trying to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit to discern how I, as a faithful lay woman, might be able to help.
I have talked to several people who have been trying for a long time to encourage reform in the Church in response to the abuse scandal. I’ve noticed that many people have been so disappointed and frustrated by the response of church leaders that they end up giving up and walking away, believing that the hierarchy does not care and is not open to improving our Church’s response. I don’t want to do that - I really want to be part of the solution, and I believe that solution will only come from the hierarchy and the laity working together with mutual honesty and trust. As people who love Jesus Christ and love the Church, we have to remember we’re on the same side!
As I become more engaged with this issue, I’ve been surprised at the amount of fear I’m encountering among the faithful - both lay people and priests. So many people are willing to talk about this privately to me, but are afraid to say anything more publicly. For some people, I think it’s because they work for the Church in some capacity, and they don’t know how speaking out will affect their job or their future. For a lot of people, they’re unsure about speaking openly, because they love the Church so much, and they don’t want to say or do anything that will make the Church look worse than it already does in the public eye.
I can definitely empathize with both of those concerns. But I also know that choosing not to speak the truth, for the sake of protecting the Church, is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. Personally, I don’t want to work through whispers and rumors and obfuscation. I believe that the only way through this crisis is to look the darkness right in the face, tell the whole truth about what has happened, and make a choice to work together, ordained and laity, to lead the Church into true, deep, and lasting reform and renewal.
So, before I go any further, I wanted to ask - Is it OK with you if I just speak very directly and honestly about my questions and concerns? I really think that is what is needed right now, from all of us. I hope you can be direct and honest with me as well.
OK, switching back to my blogging voice now:
I’ve heard that it’s best to keep blog posts pretty short if you want people to actually read them, so I’m going to break this off here and save the rest for my next post. (As you’ve probably figured out, I tend to be very long-winded. I would say I’m working on it, but honestly, it’s probably not going to change anytime soon. Sorry. Feel free to skim anytime I’m boring you!)
Thank you to all who are reading. I’ll post more soon.
Breathe in us, O Holy Spirit, that our thoughts may all be holy.
Act in us, O Holy Spirit, that our work, too, may be holy.
Draw our hearts, O Holy Spirit, that we love but what is holy.
Strengthen us, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard us, then, O Holy Spirit, that we always may be holy.
- St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit