St. Vincent de Paul Parish | St. Leo Site, Niagara Falls
June 15, 2019

Summary:  About 65 attended, including several priests and a seminarian.

Father Robert Hughson, St. Vincent de Paul Parish pastor, welcomed everyone, then Bishop Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo, did the same and said a brief, meaningful prayer followed by a scripture reading.

Participants at each table discussed among themselves, seemed to be engaged with one another in answering the three questions posed as starters, then reported out.  Everyone who wished to speak did so, on the questions or any other topic.

The three questions

  1. How do you feel about the Church right now?
  2. What do you hope for?
  3. What can this diocese, and particularly this bishop, do to help healing occur?

Themes

Comments about the Clergy Abuse Crisis: 

Generates strong emotions in good people, particularly anger and a sense of betrayal.

The Church has lost moral authority and is blamed for the bad actions of a few.

Young people have lost confidence in the Church and are leaving in droves.

Information from the bishop, not just the media, is requested; for example, have there been any allegations about sex abuse of minors in this diocese since 2000?

The media are sensationalizing everything, but they are policing us when we failed to police ourselves.

Diocesan use of social media was commended.

News outlets are vocal, and these are not countered from the pulpit.

One person said the Church will continue to shrink, as has occurred in the past.

Prevention of child abuse in the future must be the goal, not just financial compensation of victims.

Bishop Malone:

He was thanked for his courage in the face of the crisis, and several voiced appreciation for his coming to parts of the diocese in these sessions and his willingness to listen.

It was suggested that, unrelated to the current crisis, he should consider going to various parishes to say Mass to increase engagement, be visible and demonstrate that he is approachable.

He was asked to reach out to victims.

There was a firm request to provide details of what “transparency” means.

Why no outrage after NYS abortion law?

Why no countering of erroneous information in the media?  Why not speak from the pulpit and provide updates on the local situation?

Victims:

Concerns that victims have not been the primary focus; more should be done for them to help them heal.

It is hard for them to come forward at all, and it’s important to treat them pastorally.

Why don’t we pray for them at every weekend Mass, just as we pray for the pope and the bishop?

Priests:

Most of the expressed concerns was about damage to wrongfully accused priests and those who are deceased and unable to defend themselves.

There were several testimonials about priests who have been accused and a lack of belief in their guilt.

Specific questions: 

When a priest is determined to be guilty, are they defrocked?

Are they prevented from interacting with children?

Are they still paid a salary and provided benefits? If priests are exonerated, why isn’t more done to restore their reputations?

Are there any consequences for those who make false accusations?

Is loneliness a big issue for priests?

Why can’t they marry?

Can we in the parishes embrace priests as part of our families?

What Gives You Hope?

A number of people mentioned ordination of eight new priests this month as a hopeful sign, as well as baptisms of new Catholics.

The Eucharist gives hope, as do victims who still love the Church.

We need and appreciate good priests who are faithful. Clergy who are open to listening to people provide hope.

Bishop Robert Barron’s new, “Letter to a Suffering Church,” was recommended.

The collaboration of the Movement to Restore Trust and the bishop was cited as a hopeful

General Comments:

Much discussion about the loss of youth and young families from the Church. We have to bring them back, recapture youths and engage them in ways that meet their needs. Other Christian churches are doing this better, and we should learn from them.

A need to focus on the family was stressed, and the Christian Family Movement (CFM) was mentioned as a strong vehicle to strengthen families.  Bishop Malone noted this has not been active in our diocese. The Bishop’s Committee is still in existence.

Teams of Our Lady (TOOL) was mentioned as active in the Southtowns. The need for Catholic education was emphasized.

One person questioned why Catholics are not on fire about the New York abortion law, about the need for adoration, about keeping things simple (Marian devotions, for example).

Why don’t churches in a geographic area cluster together to offer Saturday morning Masses?

The emptying of churches right after Masses was decried; one solution was to provide opportunities for food and fellowship in churches that have a narthex.

Specific asks of the bishop: 

Reach out to victims (legal ramifications of this were mentioned).

Increase outreach to parishes and by parishes to Catholics, and above all, be visible and approachable.

Bishop Malone’s response: 

He thanked participants and the Movement to Restore Trust (MRT).

He did not answer specific questions that were raised but did make general comments about the need to listen and help victims, and about the problem of youth and young adults exiting the church. He pledged to continue the collaboration with MRT and spoke about the meeting of the U.S. bishops this week in which actions were taken to increase transparency and ease of filing concerns about bishops themselves.

At the end of the listening session, participants were encouraged to take the MRT literature (Update on our activities as of June 15; our areas of focus in the workgroups; how MRT began; cards with our website information) to learn details, follow developments and spread the word to others.  Many did pick up the literature.

Upcoming Listening Sessions

  • Thursday, June 27, 6:30pm – 8:30pm – St. Mark’s Parish (Buffalo)
  • Saturday, June 29, 9:30am -11:30am – Archbishop Walsh Academy (Olean)
  • Saturday, August 3, 9:30am – 11:30am – Sacred Heart Social Center (Batavia)
  • Saturday, August 10, 9:30am – 11:30am – Nativity of Our Lord (Orchard Park)
  • Saturday, August 17, 9:30am – 11:30am – Holy Trinity Parish (Dunkirk)

 

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