Thank you for publishing Zach Czaia’s “An open letter to the new archbishop” (May 29). While I haven’t met him, Zach seems representative of a segment of this local Catholic Church that inspires me: people in the pew who care deeply for those who have been harmed. He’s one of many who have continued to stay engaged, who ask how we as a faith community might more faithfully live out the Gospel, and who challenge me to lead our church in an authentic response to our present situation.
I am praying that there are indeed many more like Zach who want “to do more” so that those who have been harmed in the church may experience true healing. The archdiocese has long been funding counseling for those who come forward to report abuse. Like Zach, however, we’re hoping to do even more. Our Plan of Reorganization commits us to creating a $500,000 fund to assist victims desiring counseling. Individuals or parishes who desire to augment that fund are free to do so.
Like Zach, we acknowledge that the pain of our brothers and sisters is real. In filing for bankruptcy, the archdiocese opted to move beyond contentious relationships. Instead of potentially painful and lengthy litigation with individual claimants, the process enables us to rely on the court to determine how our resources should be fairly allocated to compensate all of those with claims against the archdiocese. As a result, we have been able to invest our legal resources into working with our insurers, overseeing the divestiture of our real estate and marshaling our other financial resources, all in order that we might offer “the most for the most.”
Convincing insurance companies of their legal obligation to pay victims has been a challenging task. The reorganization plan confirms, however, that those efforts have borne results. Not only is there $65 million immediately available for the claimants, but also rights to other insurance coverage that could augment that number.
We know, however, that healing isn’t simply a matter of dollars. Those who have shared with me their hopes for healing have consistently spoken about the importance of being believed and of knowing that the harm they suffered won’t be experienced by others.
It is my hope that those who have suffered harm will find particular consolation and encouragement, moreover, in our ongoing commitment to child protection, which in no small measure is dependent upon the support of the faithful. The reorganization plan incorporates the settlement agreement entered into with the Ramsey County attorney last December, manifesting our commitment to following a rigorous set of child protection processes and protocols. They are real reforms that codify our ongoing efforts to keep children safe.
I hope that the plan that we have filed will communicate to those who have been harmed that we believe them, that we acknowledge the pain that so frequently results from abuse, and that we are committed to protecting the young people of our community through vigilance and education. We hope that they see that we are a church forever changed by the lessons and experiences of the past.
On the eve of my installation, I preached about Pope Francis’ challenge to prioritize people over things. In my homily on the following day, I repeated his conviction that God is calling us to be a “poor church for the poor.” As we move through this bankruptcy process, it is my prayer that God, working through the insight and counsel of our lay faithful and public servants, will guide us to the attainment of both of those ends.
Living as a poor church that values people over resources will call us all to sacrifice. I have confidence that the Catholics of this archdiocese, who are noted for their generosity and their commitment to justice, will embrace that challenge and help me to lead this church to do what is right.
Bernard A. Hebda is archbishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.