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Bishop Paul Sirba: Accountability helped by the assistance of the whole People of God

“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

St. Paul established a Christian community in Corinth about the year 51. The city, a major seaport and commercial crossroads, struggled with issues of moral depravity, factionalism, questions of leadership, and other cultural woes that spilled into its celebration of the liturgy. St. Paul courageously responded to issues of conscience in the light of faith in Jesus Christ — there really is nothing new under the sun.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

As a church we are facing numerous challenges in our own day. Foremost is dealing with the clergy sexual abuse crisis. For years we have been dealing with the painful consequences of the sins surrounding the sexual abuse of minors. Our priority has been to bring healing to those who have been hurt and to do all in our power to prevent this sin from happening again.

Like you, I want the truth to come out in all the levels of the church, so that we can respond accordingly in the light of the Gospel. Our Catholic faith teaches that we will all ultimately be judged: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). There is ultimate justice. Now is the time of mercy.

I ask your prayers for the upcoming meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 12-15, in Baltimore. Our executive committee has requested of the Holy See a full investigation of Archbishop McCarrick, formation of a lay commission to assist in the investigation of reports of sexual abuse or harassment by bishops or failure of bishops in responding to such claims, and other third party accountability and reporting systems. I support these initiatives and, along with the committee, “humbly welcome and are grateful for the assistance of the whole people of God in holding us accountable.”

Recently the priests and deacons of the Diocese of Duluth gathered for our annual Clergy Conference in Grand Rapids. Our topic was the Patristic age of the Church. We devoted time to our need for ongoing intellectual formation. Benedictine Father Denis Robinson, the rector of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, was our presenter. Among the many themes he addressed was the tension that exists in order to maintain orthodoxy. We are constantly in pursuit of the truth. Tension propels us into motion, rather than being solidified in our faith. Challenges and controversies in the Church bring to light a deeper understanding of the truth. “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Whatever age of the church on which we reflect, the problems were best resolved by the holiness unleased in the Body of Christ. Saints are the best answer to our crisis or any crisis.

Our priests and deacons spent additional time discussing the present crisis in our church. We had frank discussions and question and answer sessions about how this crisis impacts us personally, how it painfully affects our local church and the church universal, and what we are called to do in response. I am so grateful to God for our priests and deacons presently serving in our diocese! They are men of faith and action serving with the heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.