On Aug. 17, Rev. Jim Hurlbert, pastor of Ascension Catholic Church in Oak Park, sent the following letter to his parishioners. We thought it would make a good contribution to the discussion in the wake of the clergy sex abuse scandal that surfaced recently in Pennsylvania. He consented to let us print his letter.
In the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury’s investigation and recent reports that a formerly respected Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick, had a secret life and a criminal past, we have seen renewed attention to the Catholic Church’s scandalously poor handling of clergy sexual misconduct. For me, a priest, to write and say that I am angry and disappointed might come across as a meaningless gesture. But I feel the need to offer some words to you, my parishioners, about whom I care very much and who I know are deeply hurt and angry.
I am sorry. That my fellow priests and bishops who are called to lead our Church would perform such egregious acts and cover-ups is reprehensible. I understand that hearing these horrific acts on our fellow brothers and sisters may deeply shake one’s Christian faith. I can only imagine the hurt and pain of those who have experienced abuse or violence in their relationships, whether inside or outside the Church. The betrayals most recently revealed may cause a re-opening of past wounds — wounds that I fear may never fully heal in this life.
Even for those not personally abused or violated, hearing of how this has happened must certainly cause pain — knowing that our Church, which we hold so dear, has been so greatly violated by men entrusted to lead it. If I can be of any assistance to anyone suffering, either by talking with you personally or by helping to direct you to other appropriate resources, please know that I am here for you. Fr. Hutmacher and I have spoken about this, and he has assured me that he is also very willing to be available to anyone who would like to talk.
I realize that these sins of priests and bishops also make it difficult for Catholics to face others at work or in society, who may think you out of your mind for calling the Catholic Church or Ascension parish your spiritual home. I pray that Jesus will send his Holy Spirit to guide us and accompany us as we try to navigate our way through this.
Unfortunately, although very important, these reports may continue to surface, bringing to light the horrific sins by too many leaders in our Church — thus opening again fresh wounds — but we must face these truths if we have any chance for healing. I ask you to join your hearts to mine as we suffer in solidarity with those who are most impacted and hurt, even while re-committing ourselves to address this sin in our Church.
I close with a petition to Mary, under the titles of Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Mother of Perpetual Help: please pray for us. We need your intercession now more than ever.
Here are a few links to information and reports for the Archdiocese of Chicago.