Statement from director Fr. Pete McCormick, C.S.C. on clergy sexual abuse

Why have you forsaken me?

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? These words were uttered by Jesus as he hung from the Cross. He was in agony. His body had been abused, His spirit all but crushed. For all those who have felt this anguish because of an inappropriate encounter with a member of the clergy, I am deeply sorry.

We went through this in 2002. At that time there was a sense of shame as the wider Church sought to understand something that should have been more clear. As the story unfolded so too did seemingly new and more appalling incidents: failures in leadership, failures in accountability, failures in what it means to be a servant of the Gospel.

In the wake of the Pennsylvania grand jury report I am left, like so many, in utter shock and disbelief. Shame is no longer my primary emotion, it’s anger. I’m angry that power, privilege and worldly success guided the principles of bishops and priests who stood in pulpits asking the faithful to trust their reflections on the Word of God, while behaving so poorly outside of them. In the temptation narrative of Matthew’s Gospel, Satan uses the words of the Old Testament to manipulate Jesus. Similarly, clergy utilized their trusted positions to manipulate both children and adults for their own benefit. As a Church we might consider echoing Jesus’ response, “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Today we are in a period of atonement. I cannot say I am sorry enough times to fully express my remorse. Our default disposition must be to listen and hear the pain that people have endured. We must commit to being transparent about what we do to protect each and every person. The clergy will only have relevance to the degree that we have made reparation for our sins, reconciled with those who have been afflicted, and performed adequate penance.

Our faith was never founded on the principles of power, privilege and worldly success, but that is exactly what we have witnessed through the sexual exploitation of those placed in our care. Such heinous and depraved acts committed by representatives of the Church in the name of Jesus, faith or the Church have filled me with horror and sorrow.

Now is the time to remind ourselves that faith, hope and love alone draw us closer to God. Anything that gets in the way of these virtues must be rooted out and destroyed. We must tend to those members of the body of Christ who are in pain and commit to an honest reform of the Church.

I promise that I, and all of us in Campus Ministry will move forward from this letter with thoughtful, prayerful action. To begin, each Mass celebrated on campus this weekend will be offered for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Fr. Peter M. McCormick, C.S.C.
Director, Campus Ministry