Sacred Heart Parish Social Center, Batavia
August 3, 2019

Attendees & Process

About 75 people attended, including seven priests and Bishop Richard J. Malone, Movement to Restore Trust (MRT) Organizing Committee member John Hurley and Dennis Mahaney, director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the diocese, manned the front table, while MRT Organizing Committee member Maureen Hurley and Father Thomas Slon, SJ, rector of the Canisius Jesuit Community, manned the MRT table.  As in other Listening Sessions, the audience was respectful and made up mostly of people over the age of 60.

  • Media are too focused on the Catholic Church as a target, exploiting the Church’s failures and creating a credibility problem for the diocese. 
  • Other speakers noted that the media are not to blame, as we brought this on ourselves and need to accept that, cover up nothing, and answer for why abusive priests were treated differently, and were not punished but reassigned.
  • Discouragement and a sense of betrayal have led to decreased financial contributions and diminished volunteerism. 
  • Many questions were raised about where money for settlements came from, and whether Upon This Rock and Catholic Charities monies were used despite promises otherwise. 
  • Offers of money may draw claims, but there should be more focus on offers of counseling. There was a demand for financial transparency and accountability. People do not want money diverted from Catholic education to payouts to victims.
  • Support and sympathy for current active priests was expressed.  There is a shortage of priests, they are stretched too thin, were not trained to function in bureaucracy, and need help from the diocese and from strong, active parish councils and finance councils. 
  • A Batavia-area study from 13 years ago was referenced by several speakers (assume this was from the time of the Journey in Faith and Grace).  They felt their input was ignored, some schools closed, and another may become a regional school.
  • There was acknowledgment of decreasing resources currently and the need to combine assets to be more effective, but the feeling that the earlier study was not seriously considered was repeatedly mentioned. People want their voices to be heard and heeded. There was an appeal to revisit the 13-year old study and unite the energy of the people.
  • Many speakers referenced that young people are leaving the Church, youth are not involved in Catholic schools or in parishes.  Young families need to be supported and encouraged to come back to Church.  Young people should be on parish councils. 
  • Faith formation is important; strong catechesis programs need to incorporate new learning instruments that young people use. While the Church is aging, we need to meet young people where they are and acknowledge their needs.  The diocese needs more pastoral involvement to help this happen. 
  • A call for more spiritual development, more focus on Bible studies, prayer groups, continuation of faith groups, and re-education on the importance of the liturgy.  The abuse issue has distracted us from our path to heaven. 
  • “Turn the clock back” – priests should wear collars and be respected.  One speaker wondered why our clergy are silent on issues like abortion and same sex marriage, yet supportive of non-discrimination against refugees, African-Americans and LGBTQ individuals, seeming to focus on the Corporal Works of Mercy but not on the Spiritual Works of Mercy.  Educate people about sacred tradition and Church teaching.
  • Christ the King Seminary:  there needs to be better screening of applicants for ministry, help them with tougher classes on abuse issue but also about priest anxiety and fear of dealing with youth.
  • Don’t change the Lord’s Prayer as is being discussed in Europe!  Let priests marry.  
  • A number of speakers were hopeful: “Lots of people still have great faith and we are here!” 
  • Expressed thanks for the Movement to Restore Trust and a desire to be involved going forward.  The bishop was thanked for coming and was encouraged to continue to reach out beyond Buffalo.  The fact that he came and listened was very important.  However, one speaker said letters to the bishop reporting (non-sexual) misconduct by clergy went unanswered. 
  • “We can be a hopeful Church.”  How do we re-focus on the future? Concentrate on Catholic education, offer resources for families and training for youths; keep rural churches open. 
  • One person refused the microphone, said the two-minute time limit was ridiculous, and claimed he’d been recently “abused by a priest” non-sexually, when the priest threatened to call the police when the man tried to offer a Prayer of the Faithful.  He then yelled, “You disgust me! The Church disgusts me! The pope disgusts me!”

John Hurley briefly described the work of the MRT, listed the six working groups, and invited attendees to review MRT’s report on the website and sign up to be involved going forward as issues continue to be addressed with the diocese.

BISHOP MALONE’S RESPONSES AND COMMENTS

Bishop Malone summarized what he had heard as “beautiful, though tortured, passion for our Church, expressed with respect and candor”. 

He confirmed that no money from Upon This Rock or Catholic Charities has been or will be used for settlements and noted that already $18 million from reserves has gone to victims.  He mentioned “insurance archaeology,” researching past insurance policies held by parishes on their own, to see what might be recovered from them. 

He then offered this excerpt from that morning’s Divine Office, from a letter from St. Paul to St. Polycarp:

“Work together in harmony,
struggle together,
run together, 
suffer together, 
rest together, 
rise together, 
as stewards, advisors and servants of God.”

Upcoming Parish Listening Sessions:

  • Saturday, August 10, 9:30am – 11:30am – Nativity of Our Lord (Orchard Park)
  • Saturday, August 17, 9:30am – 11:30am – Holy Trinity Parish (Dunkirk)

 

Prepared by MRT Organizing Committee Member Nancy Nielsen.

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