Letters from Fr. Jerry
It has been said that the “best kept secret” of the Catholic Church is its social justice teaching. This is a bit of hyperbole because it is not so much as a secret but a lack of familiarity. Beginning in 1891 with Rerum Novarum the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, the Church has addressed current social issues. Poverty, the rights and dignity of workers, economic justice, the dignity of the human person, the common good, stewardship, solidarity, peace are themes that are addressed and developed in the light of the Gospel.
People complain that the Church should stick to teaching religion. The fallacy is that religion can be separated or divorced from the other dimensions of our lives. No arena of life is free from religion and morality. We can’t follow Jesus on Sunday and abuse workers the rest of the week. We can’t leave our consciences aside to participate in politics. We can’t be good church goers and not be concerned about social sins like racism and systemic poverty. Even science and technology, as beneficial as they have been to human society, cannot operate in a religious vacuum. Research and development and the use of those developments must respect human dignity and be used in service to people and in justice.
This Lent, and anytime for that matter, I want to invite you to become familiar with Catholic Social Teaching. It may upset some of your preconceptions and challenge some of your economic or political beliefs. But, that is okay. No growth takes place without some effort and without some pain. To quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1783) “Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgment according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.” The Church has a magisterium, i.e. a teaching authority given to it by Christ Himself. It is guided by the Holy Spirit who leads us to all truth (see John 16:13).
A good starting point to inform ourselves and our consciences is a primer of sorts found at the USCCB (U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops) under Justice, Peace, & Human Development: Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching. It can offer a springboard to deeper reflection and guidance to further documents to help deepen and enrich our understanding of the truth, beauty, and goodness of this “hidden treasure.”
Follow-up papal encyclicals issued on the anniversary of Rerum Novarum include:
Pope Pius XI’s Quadragesimo anno (1931)
Letters From Bishop Powers
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April 27, 2021 Catholic Diocese of Superior statement on Attorney General clergy abuse review
On April 26th, the Catholic Diocese of Superior participated in a virtual meeting with the Wisconsin Attorney General. The reason for the meeting was for the Attorney General to announce a “new statewide initiative to address clergy sex abuse,” which was announced publicly on April 27th, 2021. The Attorney General is starting a review of “historical cases,” not any new or recent reports or allegations against anyone in the Diocese of Superior.
The Diocese recognizes that some cases were mishandled in the past. That is not today’s Church. The Diocese of Superior implemented a Morals and Ethics Policy in 1988. In 2002 the Catholic Church instituted a comprehensive set of reforms, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (the Charter). The Diocese of Superior has fully implemented the Charter to hold itself accountable to address sexual abuse of minors. The Church and the Charter have since become a model for how abuse is to be addressed. Our safeties include a coordinator of victim assistance, lay person members appointed to the Diocesan Abuse Review Board, background checks, safe environment and prevention training, mandatory reporting to law enforcement, and independent auditing. In sum, the Diocese of Superior takes the issue of sexual abuse of minors very seriously.
The Diocese of Superior voluntarily hired Defenbaugh & Associates for an independent third-party review of clergy files. The Diocese of Superior is in the process of using the independent report to list the names of clergy against whom substantiated child sexual abuse claims have been made.
The Attorney General stated his intent to request Diocesan records. We will carefully evaluate that request, and the authority for it, when it is received. We have deep concerns about the potential adverse impact this could have on abuse survivors, because the publicity has the potential to re-victimize them. Many of those whose voices have been heard have requested that their information remain private. While we are concerned with the Attorney General’s focus on the Catholic Church, we will keep the lines of communication open.
We have diligently complied with the Charter to prevent abuse, and we believe that the Diocese of Superior has never been safer for our youth. We continue to pray for and offer appropriate assistance to clergy abuse survivors. May God pour out His peace and healing on all victims, survivors, and their families.
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