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'Our people believe in God but they don't believe in us'

Archbishop Wenski speaks to archdiocesan priests at opening of convocation 2018

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski leads evening prayers Sept. 18 at the opening of an annual clergy convocation being held at the Hilton Miami Downtown hotel for several hundred priests of the archdiocese. The event, scheduled to conclude Sept. 20, included guest speakers, workshops and opportunities for spiritual and fraternal renewal among local clergy.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski leads evening prayers Sept. 18 at the opening of an annual clergy convocation being held at the Hilton Miami Downtown hotel for several hundred priests of the archdiocese. The event, scheduled to conclude Sept. 20, included guest speakers, workshops and opportunities for spiritual and fraternal renewal among local clergy.

This is the homily Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached to all the archdiocesan priests during vespers Sept. 18, 2018, at the start of their annual convocation. The convocation took place Sept. 18-20 at the Hilton Miami/downtown.

Last month’s  Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on historic cases of predation of the clergy on the youth, along with fallout over the disgrace of the once Cardinal (Theodore) McCarrick, and the former Nuncio’s “testimony” implicating the Pope in having ignored evidence of McCarrick’s abuse, have reopened wounds that many thought were cauterized in 2002 when bishops adopted “zero tolerance” policy to those who abused minors and vulnerable adults. 

The Grand Jury report did acknowledge that since 2002 an almost negligible number of priests have offended. But anger, especially towards Church leadership who in the past failed to address abuse, shows that 2002 came too late for too many victims. 

“In wisdom made perfect, instruct and admonish one another.” These words of St. Paul to the Corinthians should remind us that as a presbyterate we are accountable to one another and to the people we are ordained to serve. But also, if we allow the Word of Christ, “rich as it is” to dwell in us, then we know too that we are also accountable to the Lord.

The crisis which our Church is facing today — not only in this country but throughout the world — has its origins in the failure to hold each other accountable. The crisis is not a crisis of faith, and it’s not mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy. It is a crisis of leadership — our people still do believe in God; but they don’t believe in us. Of course, they’re supposed to believe in the Lord, not us; but if we are going to lead them — as bishops, as pastors and parish priests — they need to be able to trust us.

If you’ve been reading the Office of Readings these days — and I hope you have — we have been reading from St. Augustine’s sermon on pastors. He is not kind to those who “when they took the milk and covered themselves with wool, they neglected the sheep” seeking their own cause and not Christ’s.

Later on, in the Sermon — we will come upon in the Office next week — St. Augustine asks: “But will there be shepherds who seek what is Christ’s and not what is theirs, and will they be found?”

“There will indeed be such shepherds,” he answers, “and they will indeed be found; they are not lacking, nor will they be lacking in the future.” 

May we be such shepherds — and may we, through mutual accountability, help one another to be those shepherds.

Archdiocesan priests sing evening prayers Sept. 18 at the opening of an annual clergy convocation being held at the Hilton Miami Downtown.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Archdiocesan priests sing evening prayers Sept. 18 at the opening of an annual clergy convocation being held at the Hilton Miami Downtown.


Comments from readers

Michigan lady - 09/21/2018 01:40 PM
*That* is not a tragedy. Christians—even Catholic ones—are supposed to believe in God, first and foremost. He’s not an afterthought, or an inconvenient consequence of being Catholic. If you believe anything good about the Church, you should believe it because you believed in Jesus Christ first.
Maria Leonard - 09/20/2018 01:47 PM
I've been reading the Office for the past few months and keep wondering if priests and bishops do so. If they do so carefully, letting the words sink in, they could not help but reflect on how they live out their ministries. Should not these words challenge what has been for some a less than faithful following of the Lord.

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