Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Archbishop expresses his distress


Letter written to archdiocese conveys hurt

By Richelle Thompson, rthompson@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In his first public comments to the more than 500,000 Roman Catholics under his care, Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk talks about the pain and suffering from the priest sex abuse scandal, the mistakes made by church leaders and the future of the faithful.

        A personal letter from the archbishop to members of the 19-county Archdiocese of Cincinnati will appear on the front page of Friday's Catholic Telegraph, a weekly Catholic newspaper with a circulation of 102,000.

Pilarczyk
Pilarczyk
        The archbishop is publisher of the newspaper, which is sent to the archdiocesan parishes andsome members.

        “I get the sense people are waiting for him to talk to them,” said Tricia Hempel, the newspaper's editor. “It's very important that we not get into an Ivory Tower situation with this.”

        “The more people hear from the hierarchy and from their pastors, ... the more people will see that everyone in the church is suffering,” she said. “It's not just the laity that feels betrayed. The hierarchy and priests also feel betrayed.”

        Five archdiocesan priests — including a semi-retired priest and another who works in the Vatican — remain in active service despite substantiated sex abuse claims. Another three are on paid administrative leave after admitting to sexually abusing minors.

        In the letter, Archbishop Pilarczyk does not release any new details about allegations against priests. Nor does he discuss the grand jury subpoenas that have required the church to turn over documents and information about any sex-abuse accusations.

        Instead, the archbishop tells his flock that he is in pain and confused, too. He reminds them that there is no easy answer. Human nature is full of sin and weakness — and church leadership can't totally eradicate those problems.

        Still, he says, bishops and dioceses shoulder some blame for mishandling cases. Mistakes have been made as the church has learned how to deal with the problem, the archbishop says.

        The archbishop reminds his followers that the Lord still is with them, teaching lessons of empathy and an awareness of evil.

        Paul Jones, a Catholic who lives in Green Township, says he hopes the letter offers some answers. He's having a difficult time knowing how to respond to questions from his three children.

        While it's important the archbishop address the issue, Mr. Jones worries it may not appease a lot of upset Catholics.

        “God bless him for trying, but I think for a lot of people, it's a day late and a dollar short.”

       



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