Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
List of Accused Priests. Last week Bishop Michael Burbidge, Bishop of Arlington,
released a list of 16 priests of the diocese who have been at least, as he says, “credibly
accused” of abuse of minors. I hope you know that I believe strongly that priests who are
guilty of these sins are despicable, and deserve every punishment they get in this world
and in the next. As Jesus says: “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in
me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck
and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
But as you consider that list, it’s important for your own wellbeing of spirit, your
own peace of heart, to remember a few things. First, a “credible accusation” is not the
same as being found “guilty”—it might be compared to a civil judge saying there’s
enough evidence to begin a trial, it is not a final verdict of “guilty” in that trial. But about
half of the priests on the list never had any kind of trial in the church or in civil courts,
because they were accused after they had already died, and so never had a chance to
defend themselves. And there is at least 1 on the list who maintains his innocence and his
case is still being considered (i.e., no “verdict” yet). And there is 1 on the list that Rome
has decided that there’s not enough evidence to find him guilty, and they have allowed
him to take medical retirement, as a priest, albeit without any public ministry–case
Nevertheless, I’m not making excuses for anyone, and some of those on the list
were found guilty by the Church. Again, if they are guilty, let them be punished on earth
and in hell or purgatory, according to God’s justice and mercy.
Vatican Summit on Abuse. As I write this on Wednesday, the leaders of the Bishops’
conferences from around the world are assembling in Rome for their summit meeting
with the Pope to discuss clerical sex abuse. The meeting runs from Thursday, February
21 to Sunday, February 24. You will remember that when the American Bishops were
assembled last November, to put into place rules addressing abusive or lying bishops, at
the last-minute Pope Francis ordered them not to pass any rules, but to wait for the
outcome of this week’s summit in Rome. Well, after so much delay in addressing the
open and bleeding wound, the summit now takes place.
Sadly, as I remarked last week, it doesn’t look like this will be a very productive
meeting, if for no other reason that many of the bishops come from countries where
sexual abuse hasn’t become an open issue as it has in the U.S., and so it seems to me that
a lot of time will be spent on convincing them that this is a huge problem, instead of
spending necessary time on fixing the problem. Even the Pope has told us that
"expectations need to be deflated.”
Nevertheless, we need to pray that the Lord brings something out of this
conference. And that the purification of the Church will continue to expand in the coming
St. Peter Damien. Importantly, the summit begins on February 21, the Feast day
of St. Peter Damien, the great reformer of the clergy in the 11 th century. His letter to Pope
Leo IX, sometimes called “The Book of Gomorrah,” is a full-throated attack on the
sexual depravity, especially homosexuality (“sodomy”), of the clerics of his day.
By the age 25 Peter Damian was already a famous professor at the Universities of
Parma and Ravenna. But, he could not endure the scandals and distractions of university
life and decided (about 1035) to retire from the world, entering the hermitage of Fonte-
Avellana, where he became prior in 1043 until his death in 1072. In 1057 he was
reluctantly made Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia.
Living in the seclusion of the cloister, he watched closely the fortunes of the
Church, and strove for her purification in those deplorable times. From 1045 till his death
he cajoled and worked with the various popes for the purification of priests and bishops.
And in 1051 he published the “Book of Gomorrah,” which caused a great stir and aroused
widespread enmity against Peter, and still does today. Although sometimes harsh in
rhetoric, it is also compassionate, especially to innocent victims and truly repentant
sinners. It is filled with penetrating insights and lessons that would seem to apply aptly to
the Church today.
So I encourage you to pray to St. Peter Damien, today and in the future, for the
purification of the priests, bishops and cardinals of the Church.
Some quotations from the Book of Gomorrah:
— “For God's sake, why do you damnable sodomites pursue the heights of
ecclesiastical dignity with such fiery ambition?”
— “Listen, you do-nothing superiors of clerics and priests. Listen, and even though
you feel sure of yourselves, tremble at the thought that you are partners in the guilt of
others; those, I mean, who wink at the sins of their subjects that need correction and who
by ill-considered silence allow them license to sin.”
— “But if the doctor fears the virus of the plague, who will apply the cauterization?
If he is nauseated by those whom he is to cure, who will lead sick souls back to the state
— “It is not sinners, but the wicked who should despair; it is not the magnitude of
one’s crime, but contempt of God that dashes one’s hopes.”
Security Cameras. For years I have been increasingly concerned about the safety and
security of parishioners and visitors to our church. I especially worry about unattended
children being in the downstairs hall and hallways, especially during Sunday Mass. Also,
as time has gone on, I have been made aware that there are sometimes drug deals done in
our parking lot at night, and I worry that a parishioner might stumble upon these or other
unsavory activities. So, after an extensive process of consultation with police, insurers
and other security experts, and evaluating several bids from reputable security
companies, I have signed a contract to install multiple security cameras on our property.
Cameras will cover almost the whole outside property, as well as most of the interior of
the public spaces of the buildings.
For security purposes, I am not inclined to reveal more information about the
system, lest any “bad guys” find out information useful to them. Suffice it to say, we will
have the cameras, and they will be on 24 hours a day. If any parishioners want more
information, or have any concerns, please feel free to contact me or Tom Browne in the
I will make a further announcement about this at Masses once we have the
cameras in place.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles