Dear Archbishop Bernard Hebda:
I read your “apology” — distributed with the Sunday bulletin — after mass at the Church of St. Peter in North St. Paul, where my family has been members for 51 years. I have been a believer since birth and baptism and had 12 years of Catholic education. I served as an altar boy and choir member until eighth grade in St. Edward parish on the North Side of Chicago. There I served wonderful priests who were outstanding images of what a priest should be to his flock. Personal integrity, holiness, compassion and a bright grace showing to all who observed them. Not one of them ever made bishop.
All of that has gone now, starting with Cardinal Bernard Law in Boston, who of course was never prosecuted for his “coverup” but was given sanctuary in the Vatican and a plush commission and significant stipend at the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in the Vatican. Hardly a punishment at all.
So now, in my 77th year, I write to you as a practicing lawyer and note that you are a trained lawyer likewise. How can you honestly believe that any rational person will accept your “knowing” certain things about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, D.C., and about the lawsuit against the Irish Christian Brothers, and you did nothing? You never asked further questions? You were not morally troubled by these allegations? After all, you are not and were not a stranger to the “dark side” of hierarchical shenanigans that have existed since you were in the seminary, were you?
You had all the power as the bishop of Newark to dig deeper, but you turned your head away. Just what do bishops and their auxiliary bishops do day to day in a cesspool of unbelievable rumors of sexual depravity? Now that you are archbishop in the Twin Cities, you have studied (at least, I hope you have) the history of the pedophile coverup in this archdiocese for decades. No bishops were called to atone to the corruption. No seminary heads or staff were called to explain. How can this be?
You most likely know about Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, a person in power who chose not to look and not to see and not to ask questions about rumors. Same for U.S. Rep. James Jordan of Ohio (who denies being aware of alleged abuse by the team doctor of the Ohio State wrestling squad when he was assistant coach there) and many others at places like Michigan State and the University of Southern California. Lots going on, but no simple inquiry by someone who has the complete and absolute power of inquiry.
You had that power and ignored it and want us to believe you did your best, just like Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the current archbishop of Washington, who is widely thought to be lying about what happened under his watch in Pittsburgh and continuing.
So, yes, you should resign, and so should all of the U.S. bishops and force the Vatican to make a transparent attempt to appoint bishops of personal integrity, holiness, compassion and a bright grace showing to all who will observe them. It is the absence of transparency in this dark age of the church that bars the reconciliation of the faithful.
You bishops were all “stewards” of the church, and you have burned down the financial structure, not to mention the trust structure. Why would you be allowed to remain in your position? That is exactly what your predecessor stated when the latest pedophile scandal led to our current bankruptcy. John C. Nienstedt declared that he and only he could fix it. But as you know, he was and should be investigated for his own alleged sexual impropriety and involvement with vulnerable seminarians. When will that be concluded? Never, I suppose, yet he is collecting his pension from us, the faithful.
Why has no bishop been prosecuted for covering up blatant crimes? There is no explanation. But you can acknowledge your involvement, the financial disaster you and the bishops have visited on us. It has been going on in this archdiocese since 1982, when an Anoka County jury awarded damages for priest pedophilia. That is a long time. Yet, nothing has been done to those bishop “stewards.”
If you have a response, I would appreciate receiving it. But you should think of your resignation. Give a younger, more transparent priest an opportunity to right the church’s ship of state, which is sinking on the rocks of pedophilia that you and the other “stewards” have ignored. This scandal is not over.
Thomas J. Lyons, of North St. Paul, is an attorney.