We, the Faithful, Need Answers, Cardinal George

By Sue Ontiveros
Chicago Sun-Times
February 11, 2006

What's going to happen on Sunday? That's what I've been thinking about all week. Last Sunday, when I sat at mass, I waited for an announcement, letter, something that I was sure would have to be coming from Cardinal Francis George about the current allegations of priest sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese. Nothing in my church bulletin. (I checked during the sermon that went on too long and never mentioned the situation, either.)

I couldn't believe that when it was announced there would be a second collection for, of all things, the seminary, no word from the archdiocese came, either. All the archdiocese would have had to say was something along the lines of "this situation shows why it is so vital to have funding to train and acquire good priests." Something like that. But nothing. Maybe that's why I saw so few hands drop anything into the collection baskets.

Finally, at the end of my mass, during announcements, a sentence began, "Cardinal George . . ." OK, this must be it.

It wasn't.

Instead, it was a reminder that on the next Sunday, tomorrow, across the archdiocese, parish priests would be explaining to us, the faithful, why we should be giving to the Annual Catholic Appeal. In short, onceagain, we're expected to just ignore the current hailstorm raining down on our church as if nothing has happened. Pay, pray, obey.

As I've said before, I've been a good Catholic girl all my life. But I am not of the blind-faith variety, and from what I have been hearing from the Catholic faithful, I am not alone. We need to hear from our cardinal. Yes, it was important for the cardinal to speak directly to the parishioners of St. Agatha, where the current alleged incidences of sexual abuse occurred. However, as I have said before, what about the rest of us? Catholics across the city are feeling let down, angry. We need some assurances that real change will occur this time.

We're reeling out here, and the news we hear isn't good. It sounds as if there was a lot of foot dragging and evasion of the truth. And now it looks as if those in charge are just going to try to collectively ignore the problem and us, the faithful.

That's a bad move. The cardinal and the powers that be might think that by saying nothing it will just go away. It won't. And the longer the collective silence goes on, the more the Catholic Church in Chicago -- heck, across the nation -- will be damaged.

We, the faithful, want to know why the procedure put into place to ensure proper handling of allegations of sexual abuse didn't work.

We put our trust into this system, and obviously it is flawed or the powers that be didn't follow it as it was mapped out. What is going to be done to make sure the procedure works next time? We want our children protected. What is going to be done to assure us that will happen?

In the last week, I've been inundated with e-mail and phone calls about the situation in the Catholic Church.

One aspect I feel so troubled by is the good, hardworking priests who feel as if the mishandling of this case has besmirched them, too. As one reminded me, at one time it was such a point of pride to wear the Roman collar. Now, someone sees one and starts looking at all priests funny.

Now, with this two-ton elephant in the middle of the room, the parish priests are expected to get up and ask for money for the annual Catholic Appeal, which certainly is a worthy endeavor. Yet, without any word from our leader, how many people will ignore the call for generosity?

In 2001, the priests and lay people in the trenches will tell you, donations plummeted during the last period when alleged sex abuse of children committed by priests was all over the news. In the last six months, many finally saw donations returning to those past levels. And now this.

All across the city we have parishes struggling to survive. The last thing they need is parishioners snapping shut their wallets again. The cardinal has to let us know -- the sooner, the better -- how he is going to bring us out of this terrible tragedy.

If he doesn't, he shouldn't be surprised when donations dip and our churches have more and more empty pews.

He's our leader. It's time for him to lead.


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