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Bishop Paul Sirba: Help make our Church a beacon of light in the darkness

It is difficult to return to realities that are painful. We want relief and resolution. We don’t like pain or suffering. The expression “no pain no gain” may be a helpful sports mantra, but not so much when we are facing what seems insurmountable.

Bishop Paul Sirba

Bishop Paul Sirba
Fiat Voluntas Tua

Our Church, universally and locally, has been dealing with the effects of the clergy sexual abuse crisis for years. It became more intense for us when our Diocese declared bankruptcy almost four years ago on Dec. 7, 2015. Our efforts have always been focused on helping and healing for victims and their families, to bring about justice, repair scandal, and restore what has been damaged.

Resolution and sacrifice involves the whole local Church. I am grateful for the abuse survivors who have come forward to tell their stories. They have been courageous.

This month of October stands to be a very important chapter in the resolution of our bankruptcy. On Oct. 21, in Duluth, we will meet with Judge Robert Kressel, United States Bankruptcy Judge, and the Unsecured Creditors Committee, which represents survivors in the bankruptcy process, to offer a renewed apology for sins and crimes committed against them when they were children. I will apologize to victims and pledge to continue to make our churches, schools, and religious education programs the safest places for our young people to be. They will also receive a financial settlement.

Pursuit of justice at times has been painful, complicated, and long-suffering, but we hope in some measure that it has been achieved.

This is the work of our lifetime. The collateral damage includes not only victims but their families, relations, families of accused priests and the priests who have been credibly accused, and all of the rest of the Body of Christ. For when “one member suffers all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Ongoing work includes reconciliation and healing through prayer, sacrifice, and the grace of God. In all of this Jesus saves. We can make no progress in addressing these issues without Jesus. He alone heals. He alone can bring peace. Jesus is the only one to teach and help us make any sense out of redemptive suffering.

I have a few things to ask of all of you. Help make our Church a beacon of light to shine in the darkness. Please pray during this month for a merciful and just resolution to this process. The month of October is the month of the Rosary. Please offer your rosaries for victims who have been hurt by the sin of clergy sexual abuse. Please find in your heart to pray for all involved. Please pray for all those who are advising me and for me. Though you yourself may never have had to face this issue personally, know that so many others have been hurt and need to feel the healing touch of God.

I have great hope in the midst of the darkness that our beloved Church will make real progress in addressing the church-wide and society-wide problem of sexual abuse of young people. I hope that for those who have been harmed in the past, this brings healing and closure for them. I am hopeful that a heightened collaboration with the lay faithful, who bring experiences as parents and professionals, to the work of child protection, transparency, accountability, and recommendations for suitability for fitness in ministry will change our culture.

Our Lady of the most holy Rosary, pray for us.

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.