A Twin Cities Catholic’s open letter to the new archbishop

Star Tribune

By Zach Czaia MAY 27, 2016

Dear Archbishop Bernard Hebda:

I am a Minnesota Catholic. I was baptized in a Twin Cities parish. I received my first communion at a Twin Cities parish. I took the oils of confirmation on my forehead at the cathedral in St. Paul. I have gratitude for the work that you do and your fellow priests do — the marrying and burying, the listening and absolving, the steady presence in the lives of those you pastor. You have a difficult job, a challenging vocation, and the present environment here has not made it any easier. So, before I say anything else, I want you to know that I value your work. At its best, I believe it is God’s own work.

I’m writing because I would like to see a radical change in the way our local church approaches victims of clergy sexual abuse. I believe our current approach is not nearly honest or generous enough to provide real healing to those who have been harmed. We need to do more. We need to give more.

At my home parish, every Sunday at the offertory, the ushers walk up the aisles and pass the baskets down the pews. I put my money in like many others. I hope you can understand that over these past two years, in light of what has been revealed through the witness of Jennifer Haselberger and the reporting of local news outlets, I have lost confidence that this money is doing much good for the community. Nevertheless, I give. I give because I was taught it was right to tithe, to give back to the church, to support it.

Sometimes your priests present “second collections” — on behalf of missions the local church in St. Paul and Minneapolis supports in other parts of the world. Sometimes they are on behalf of retired members of religious communities or food shelters or homeless shelters or any number of praiseworthy purposes. But I have never once heard a second collection taken up for the victims of sexual abuse, many of whom were victimized in the very spaces where we sit. I have never once heard a financial appeal for support of victims, whose lives have been uprooted at the hands of abusive priests. Good therapy is not cheap, but I have never once seen the collection basket passed around for good therapy so a victim of sexual abuse could heal. Never once, not in 33 years sitting in the pews.

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