Bishop Barber's Response to the Abuse Scandal (The Catholic Voice)

The Catholic Voice article
September 3, 2018
By Most Rev. Michael C. Barber, SJ

When I visited UC-Berkeley earlier this year and met with a large group of Catholic students for a discussion, the first question they asked me was “What do I tell my Catholic friend who no longer practices his faith because of the scandals in the Church?”

Many Catholics have had their faith shaken by the recent revelations in Pennsylvania, the scandalous behavior of an American cardinal and the recent letter from the former Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.

Here’s how I answered the students. When the famous English theologian and academic John Henry Newman converted to the Catholic Faith in 1845, his closest Anglican friends asked him “How can you join a Church which has such a history of corruption?”

He responded that the Church is a Divine institution in human hands. And humans are sinners. He also said that Christ himself knew there would be sin and corruption in the Church, therefore he purposefully chose Judas Iscariot as one of his apostles. So we can trace corruption right back to the origin, yet also show that “Where sin prevails, grace prevails all the more.” Christ also preached the parable of the wheat and weeds, to show that both would exist in the Church.

Yet that’s not the end of the story. Christ has destroyed sin, and death.

I also told the students that I’ve been in the Navy Reserve for 27 years. Every year about 50 admirals, generals and commanding officers of ships and bases are removed for misbehavior, ethical violations, criminal activity or “loss of confidence in ability to command.”
Yet we do not dismiss all commanders as criminal. One of my duties as chaplain is to visit the brig: the “jail” on a ship or Navy base.

Many of the prisoners are serving sentences for child abuse in their own families. Yet we do not say all sailors and Marines are abusers. We don’t say the Navy and Marine Corps is evil. No. We point out that the majority of sailors and Marines, and soldiers and airmen, are good and loyally serve our country every day: putting their lives on the line in many instances. In addition, we have real heroes in the military and recognize them with the Congressional Medal of Honor. So too in the Church. The majority of our priests serve you faithfully every day in every parish in our dioceses. We have heroes in the Church we call saints: like Mother Teresa and St. John Paul II.

There is no excuse for the priests who have committed crimes against innocent children. There is no excuse for bishops who have covered up these crimes or abetted them by transferring abusers to other parishes. This is evil.

The difference between the military and the church is that the military has a good accountability system. The Church does not. And we need to fix that now.

I endorse the call of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the US bishops, to the Holy Father to establish an independent, lay-led review board that will address complaints against bishops.

In regards to the scandal of Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick and the revelations of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, we need such a board or commission to find the truth. Perhaps this could be the existing National Review Board. Whatever group is set up, it needs to find out “who knew what; and when did they know it?”

They need access to all the relevant documents, most of which are protected as “Papal Secrets.” They need to interview priests who worked in the Roman Curia and U.S. diocesan offices, who also would be released form the “Papal Secret” and allowed to testify.

We need to find out the truth. Only the truth will set us free. And only the pope can authorize the steps that need to be taken to find the truth.

But there is action I can take as bishop of our diocese.

In Oakland, I am calling for an independent outside audit of our Diocesan Review Board policies, to ensure we are faithfully following the precepts of the Dallas Charter, the procedures to investigate sexual abuse by clergy. I also am going to review the membership of the current Diocesan Review Board to make sure it has the number of lay experts we need in the fields of law enforcement, the judiciary, parents, a clinical professional specializing in treatment of childhood trauma and survivors.

In addition to these actions, I am inviting all priests, religious and lay faithful of the diocese to join me in a Novena to St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, from Sept. 6-14. We will distribute a Novena prayer to be read at all Masses every day.

On Sept. 14, the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross, I call all of us in the diocese to a Day of Prayer, Penance and Reparation for the sins members of the Church have committed against innocent children.

I ask our priests to hold a Holy Hour with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in each parish at a convenient time, to pray in reparation, for healing for the victims, and for the cleansing and reform of the Church and her ministers.

I invite us all to do penance that day, especially my brother priests: to fast and make other personal sacrifices in reparation for the pain suffered by the innocent. As Pope Francis said in his “Letter to the People of God:” “The penitential dimension of fasting and prayer will help us as God’s People to come before the Lord and our wounded brothers and sisters as sinners imploring forgiveness and the grace of shame and conversion.”

In addition, I have been receiving many letters and emails asking me to stand up for the truth and not be afraid to speak out in front of all the bishops on the need for reform. May I also ask you to pray for this intention in the novena and day of reparation?

On the Feast of the Holy Cross, we will stand with Mary at the foot of her son’s cross, so that we can grow in the graces of compassion, justice, prevention, reparation — and strength to reform the Church.

Pastor's Response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

The first verse from this past Friday’s first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, (16:1) hits home to me as to what has happened in our Church.  “The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations.”  For today’s context, we just need to replace ‘Jerusalem’ with ‘Catholic Church’.  In particular, the word the struck me is abomination.   Wikipedia defines it as “exceptionally loathsome, hateful, sinful, wicked or vile.”

Revelations from the grand jury investigation of the dioceses in Pennsylvania are a true abomination.  It is truly horrifying, gut wrenching, unbelievable, and sickening.  How can the Church after 2000 years degrade herself to such a sickening state?  How could such evil infect the Church of Jesus Christ?  Where were the brother priests or bishops to stop this pestilence?  Where were the prophets of God like Ezekiel to keep this from going on for such a long time? What happened to the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit?  Where was God in all this?

I feel like in the 1980’s, Pandora’s Box was opened a crack and various demons came out, then in 2002 with the Boston Globe investigation, Pandora’s Box was opened all the way, and all sorts of hidden demons were revealed to the world.  Now 16 years later, I would have hoped the box would be empty, only to find even more evil and demons revealed in the parishes in Pennsylvania.  It is exhausting, disgusting, shocking, and terribly sad.

Twenty-years ago, I made a major shift in my career and started the road to religious life and priesthood.  That road now is far from the heavenly highway I envisioned.  Instead it has become littered with neglect, potholes, and horrific cliffs.  But I have been and continue to be inspired by dedicated priests like Frs. Al and George, who cared tenderly for God’s flock.  I’ve been inspired by folks like Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, St. Francis, and St. Paul, to know God cares and lays out tremendous goodness in a broken world.  I’ve been inspired by numerous wonderful Catholics I know personally who live the sacrificial love of Christ in the world, doing a lot of good.

We are all family.  By virtue of our baptism into Christ, we belong to Christ and we belong to each other.  The waters of baptism initiated the bond and Eucharist seals that bond.  As family, we are able to enjoy the triumphs and goodness of our church family, but we also have to wade through our family’s self-created cesspool.  

However in this, we are not alone.  Our Heavenly Father who like a marriage, sealed a covenant with His Chosen people and was united with them despite their constant rebellion – seeking false gods, abusing the weak and poor, and defiling themselves in all sorts of ways.  God sent prophets to warn his people and bad things did happen, but God always took them back and rescued them.  The same is true with God’s Son who had to deal with the defiant religious leaders who should have recognized Him as the Christ.  Even Jesus’ disciples denied and abandoned Him.  But still Jesus remained with them.

It is easy to want to abandon ship, but I hope that we will tap into Christ’s faithfulness and remain united. 

Now, it is awful to feel powerless and numbed.  But as long as we have breath in our lungs and free will, we have the power to respond.  So what can we do?  Here are my humble suggestions.  However keep conversation going, because there is much more wisdom in our parish.

1) Pray for the victims of this scandal.  Please pray for healing, justice, reconciliation, and peace for the victims.  Healing is a long hard journey.  Please also pray for the good faithful priests who continue to be faithful to the gospel, while suffering from the shame of their unfaithful brothers, wolves in sheep’s clothing.

2) Be vigilant against evil.  Tremendous evil does exist in the world.  This means we must always be vigilant, even within our own homes, for evil is like a foul stench, that creeps everywhere.  If you see anything amiss here at Newman or anywhere you are, call the appropriate people to accountability.  Too many people in the past turned a blind eye or felt it was too much trouble or feared the family shame. 

3) Please don’t give up on your spiritual family.  The waters of baptism and the body and blood of our Lord truly bind us to each other and to our Lord.  We need each other in these trying times, for we are stronger together than apart.  Evil wins if we fall apart.  Trust in our Lord’s promise that even when the gates of hell knocks on the Church, she will not be abandoned.  And know the church of today, though not perfect, is very different from the past.  We do have much more stringent checks in place and a laity that will not be passive.  And we have much more good work to do in a broken world.

4) Work on healing.  Two ways that come to mind are by praying and by excelling in goodness.  Prayer is important because true healing can only come from the divine physician, Jesus Christ, whose mission is to mend a broken world.  Whenever there is brokenness, we can play a part in the healing.  It’s the connection of being family.  I think what we can do individually is be extra vigilant on being a channel of goodness to counter evil in the world.  Doing frequent examinations of consciences, penances, and sacraments to clean our own weaknesses and be the best that we can be, enables us to be a better channel of God’s goodness in the world.  Every unkind word, every indifference to another, every lack of love, every harsh judgment hurts others and adds to the darkness in our world.  I do not believe evil priests just one day decided I am going to be evil.  God created us very good.  But you add enough layers of unkindness from others, enough layers of neglect, enough layers of hurt, and channels of evil are able to sink roots into that person.  Then through their own willful cooperation with evil, awful things happen.

5) Let’s encourage our Church to follow the template laid out by the Church’s Sacrament of Reconciliation – examination of conscience, confession of sin, doing penance, and celebration of forgiveness.  We don’t need to wait for civil society to change statute of limitation laws.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if each diocese thoroughly examines themselves by an independent tribunal, confesses the sins of legitimate cases, as a penance provides sacrificial compensation (though no amount could possibly compensate the severity of the crimes), and celebrates the sacraments of forgiveness and healing?  Now, not every hurt person would want to go public and relive the pain, so the church should also provide extra resources to various victim abuse funds to help those who want to remain anonymous.  If you’re a survivor of abuse, I encourage you to avail yourself of your home diocese’s confidential help.

In all of this, please remember we are not alone.  Mary, the mother of our Lord, witnessed the horrific abuse done to her son in his passion and crucifixion, and still remained faithful.  On the cross, Jesus left us His mother to be our mother.  So continuing that Pandora’s Box analogy, Mary who knows our suffering, is the goodness in the box available to us.   Let us turn to Our Lady, Queen of the World, patroness of the Diocese of Oakland, imploring her intercessory guidance, healing, and strength.  Consider praying a rosary on her feast day, Wed., August 22nd.

                                                                                                                                   - Fr. Ivan


Statement regarding recent revelations of clergy sexual abuse from Bishop Barber

Aug. 16, 2018

OAKLAND -- Bishop Michael Barber has issued the following statement regarding recent revelations of clergy sexual abuse, including by bishops and cardinals:

"The news we have been receiving about the horrible actions of priests, bishops and cardinals has stunned and disgusts me. Those who have harmed children and vulnerable adults must be held accountable. The bishops who refused to stop this immoral and criminal behavior must also be held accountable.  I am shamed by the actions of these men and have vowed to work with all people of good will to make our Diocese a safe place for all. 

"To that end, we have policies and procedures in place mandating that every person who serves in our Diocese, whether clergy, religious, staff or lay volunteer, receives training in how to identify and stop predatory behavior. The Diocese of Oakland has a zero tolerance policy to the sexual abuse of minors on the part of anyone who serves the church. We also have staff which respond to each allegation of abuse, and have a loving and responsive team to assist survivors of clerical sexual abuse. We have an independent Diocesan Review Board composed of lay experts in psychology, police investigators, retired judges and abuse survivors, which examines complaints of misbehavior. I follow their recommendations.

"I welcome the initiative of Cardinal DiNardo, President of the US Bishops Conference, whose August 16 statement is attached, to establish an investigation into questions surrounding bishops’ accountability, an opening of new and confidential reporting channels for complaints, proper independence and lay, not clerical, leadership of the process.

"The love of Christ compels us to be better models of Jesus’ love, mercy, and healing.  We must never  violate the trust placed in us. As Bishop of Oakland, I promise there will be consequences for those who do."

Fr. George Fitzgerald, CSP (1932-2018)


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It is with great sadness, that we announce the death of Fr. George Fitzgerald, C.S.P., Pastor Emeritus of Newman Hall-Holy Spirit Parish.

He passed away peacefully early Wednesday morning (2018 June 20) after a valiant struggle with the effects of pneumonia.

His Funeral Vigil and Mass was June 22 and 23.  
His burial was held at Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA at 11am, Tuesday, July 10th.
Old St. Mary's (SF) celebrated a Memorial Mass on Friday, Aug 17 at 6:15pm.

May the angels lead Fr. George to paradise and comfort all those who mourn his passing.

Check out photos and videos of the services at our Photo Gallery.  Also check out his obituary, the Funeral Mass homily and some eulogies, and his necrology.

160th Anniversary of approval of Paulists' First Rule - July 7, 1858

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Saturday, July 7, marks the 160th anniversary of the day Archbishop John Hughes of New York gave his approval to the Paulist Father's first "rule" (on July 7, 1858).

The Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle ("The Paulist Fathers") was established in 1858. The society was the first community of Catholic priests founded in the United States. Fr. Isaac Hecker and his associates received permission to form the society from Pope Pius IX on March 6, 1858.
We are sharing this clip of "Isaac Hecker and the Journey of Catholic America" on March 6, 2018, to help mark the 160th anniversary of a key moment in Paulist Fathers history. On March 6, 1858, Pope Pius IX dispensed Fr. Clarence Walworth, Fr. Augustine Hewit, Fr. George Deshon and Fr.