Letter from Fr. Henry Regarding Release of Names of Priests with Credible Allegations of Abuse of a Minor

Dear St. Ann Parishioners,

Tomorrow the diocese will release a list of names of priests with credible accusations made against them. Names on the list may surprise some. Most of us will likely witness negative news coverage. We live in a tumultuous time. A lot is being uncovered in the Catholic Church. When I read about the abuses committed by priests and bishops, I just want to curl up in a corner and hide. We all feel that sense of hopelessness.

At Jesus’ death, the Apostles felt similar hopelessness. Their friend and leader was abused and murdered in front of them and they were left defenseless, afraid for their lives. But we know the story doesn’t end there and it won’t end with this scandal.

As the news breaks, we may feel attacked and defenseless. But I encourage you to remember the Christian story is a story of hope. Without Christ’s Passion, we wouldn’t have the Resurrection. Catholics could not allow the darkness to remain and the only way to remove darkness is with light. Making this list of names public is that light. So, as we approach tomorrow and the names are released, have compassion for the victims, pray for your Church, and have hope for the future.

As your pastor, I want to assure you that we have taken steps beyond Safe Environment to guard against something like this happening at St. Ann. We have emphasized community among the priests here. Priests at St. Ann gather for prayer and meals several times a week and are intentional about socializing, getting to know one another, and upholding each other’s vocation. We also have invited parishioners to offer us support and accountability. We have empowered a team of lay leaders in the parish that holds me accountable and challenges me at times. We all have our blind spots and need close confidants who will love us enough to be open and direct.

As another step, I want to empower all parishioners to give me feedback. Please, reach out when you have concerns. Several of you have emailed me over the past couple of months since the news first came out. I appreciate that you felt free to express your concern to me on this issue and others. I will strive to provide responses in a timely fashion.

Finally, I want to reiterate an earlier request: please, do not put priests on a pedestal! One certainly can respect the priesthood and respect the ministry of priests you know and love. Believe me, we appreciate your love and support. However, we must not fall into the trap of clericalism, where priests might be tempted to revel in the status and power often given by many laity in the Church. We are all sinners relying on the grace of our Savior.

With the list of names, the diocese will publish resources to address questions and concerns. Look for those links at www.cathdal.org. We will also publish links on our own site as they are made available.

Yours in Christ,

Henry V. Petter


Justin DeMois