Bread In The Wilderness
Father Carl Diederichs
All Saints Catholic Church

Earlier this month the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, of whom I am a part, released six thousand pages of documents relating to sex abuse of minors by priests and an apparent cover up of these crimes. I have not read the documents and probably will not. But I did see the names of the priests who committed these criminal acts. I knew some of them. As a priest, I am not only appalled, but I feel a real sense of betrayal, not only from the perpetrators of these heinous crimes but also from our leaders who participated, maybe unwittingly, in these crimes by not exercising their power to remove these men from ministry.

And added to the crimes and cover up, we have a church that defended itself from the victims that they were meant to serve and protect. It is my sense that the leadership turned over its moral authority to the lawyers and the litigations began. It is very difficult on the one hand to see the victim as an adversary and at the same time to want to minister to them in their pain and suffering. I am in no way attempting to say that the leaders were not doing what they thought was right at the time. But it is wrong.

And we have the additional culture of clericalism that the leaders were part of. And that culture attempts to protect the institution at all costs. Loyalty is the virtue most respected. None of us wants the institution to which we have given our lives to be scorned in the public arena.

Let’s face it; money is the root of all evil. The real possibility that the Archdiocese could become a permanent pauper as law suits where flying around certainly had to influence some of the decisions the leaders made. As one priest said: “The Archdiocese should be blown back to the stone age” financially for covering up these crimes. That was his opinion.

I feel that the lawsuits have damaged and will continue to damage our mission and ministry. We have already paid billions nationwide. And these cases will not go away. I think this is the price we will pay for our actions. If we are honest and contrite and truly sensitive to the grave harm done by priests, we will come out of this a more faithful church, in spite of the financial costs and hardships this will cause.

I personally will not let the acts of criminals who happen to be priests distract me from what I have been ordained for: to serve God’s People with love and respect.

I will also pray for our leaders that they will have learned a very hard lesson and with humility and grace they will become stronger leaders as we face so many challenges. Hopefully, we will preach the Good News even more effectively in word and deed.