Vol. 2, No. 11
It is good to be home after several weeks of international and national travel.
I know there has been much talk and discussion this past week on the possibility that the Diocese of Tucson may file for Chapter 11 Federal bankruptcy protection. A letter containing my thoughts was read at all the Masses in the Diocese this past weekend.
In that letter, I say emphatically that my interest, desire, hope and preference is to mediate the lawsuits that have been filed against the Diocese. That is simply not possible at the present time because the current demands are well beyond the means of the Diocese. There are already more cases than the number settled in 2002 and we have no assurance that there will not be more claims.
The situation of indebtedness the Diocese faced about the television station some years ago is very different than this situation. At that time, the extent of indebtedness was known. In the situation of abuse claims, the Diocese has no way of knowing whether more claims will surface.
Response to victims and assurance that the Diocese can continue its mission are the two driving forces involved in the consideration of Chapter 11. The litigation system in the U.S. is a first come, first served system. The settlement made in 2002 significantly depleted the resources of the Diocese and put the Diocese into very serious debt.
This has left the Diocese with few resources available to respond to victims. Chapter 11 would be an orderly way to bring about an equitable and just response to all victims: those involved in litigation and those many who are not. It would also allow for continuing resources to fund our very important child abuse awareness and prevention programs.
Under Chapter 11, the Diocese would continue its mission. That mission is critical for our community. We need to provide places of worship for people desiring to grow closer to the Lord. That mission seeks to educate young people in our schools and religious education classes. That mission reaches out to the poor in our community, to families in need, to the elderly and to all in need of pastoral care.
No final decision has been made in this matter. However, I continue to do consultation on this important question and I assure you that whatever is decided it will be only after careful and thorough consultation. I have asked our Catholic community for their comments. I have invited people in the pew to offer comments and suggestions on my diocesan e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by letter. I intend also to meet with our priests, deacons, religious and parish leaders to respond to any questions and to hear any advice.
I will meet with the staff of the Pastoral Center this Friday as part of our regular staff meetings. It will be an opportunity for them to offer their observations.
The Lord will guide us through this difficult period. I invite your prayers of petition at Mass as well as in your personal prayers.
The Bishops meeting and retreat in Denver last week went very well. Two items of business were dealt with. The first was the nearly unanimous decision of the Bishops' Conference to continue audits this year on the compliance by dioceses with the Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
This means that two independent auditors will visit the Diocese of Tucson again this year to review the progress we are making in providing safe environments for children and to determine how effective is the Diocese's response to allegations. I am confident that this audit will affirm the progress being made. I welcome this outside review and I trust it will help us analyze what we are doing well and what yet needs to be done.
The Bishops' also approved action to further study the situation of abuse of children by priests as well as the larger societal issue that child abuse presents. While abuse by priests is tragic, so is child abuse by a family member or other person in society. We need to know more about this concern, its scope and causes. The two studies of abuse include further review of the findings by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice as well as sending out requests for proposals for a study of the causes and context of child sexual abuse. There is much that yet needs to be learned.
The other action taken by the Conference was to approve a statement that affirms the teaching of the Church about the evil of abortion and how the legal system cooperates in evil when it fails to protect the lives of the unborn. It also calls for the formation of conscience for Catholic politicians so that they can better understand their responsibility to uphold life.
Bishops need to teach and persuade. The Catholic faithful need to act in support of life principles and policies in public life. Catholic politicians and leaders who act in defiance of Catholic moral principles should not be honored or given awards or platforms that in any way leave the appearance of support. This has been the practice in most dioceses already.
The statement makes clear that the decision to deny Holy Communion to some Catholics in political life is the responsibility of the individual bishop in keeping with established canonical and pastoral principles. It is legitimate for a bishop to deny Communion or not to deny Communion since this prudential judgment can differ in different situations.
I have already indicated that I do not intend to deny Communion but will continue to dialogue with Catholic politicians on these fundamental moral principles of life. I have an unequivocal commitment to protect human life and dignity from conception to death. I hope all of us in the Diocese will continue to work together to realize this in our lives and in our laws.
2. Diocesan Budget -- We are putting the final touch on our Diocesan budget for 2004-2005. No increases in allocations to departments at the Pastoral Center will be made. Reductions will take place where possible. I am hopeful that the Board of the Diocese of Tucson Charity and Ministry Fund will assist us in carrying on the pastoral work so important for the well being of our parishes and schools. I am grateful to Mary Huerstel, our finance director, Father Van Wagner, Vicar General, Richard Serrano, Director of Human Resources, and June Kellen, our Chancellor, for their work in developing our budget.
3. Parish Finance Training Workshops -- A significant event in our efforts to live out our commitment to openness, honest and transparency in financial matters begins this week with the first in a series of Parish Finance Training Workshops.
Chief Financial Officer Mary Huerstel and the staff of the Fiscal Services Office are presenting these day-long training workshops for parish staff and parish lay leadership, including parish council and parish finance council members.
The agenda includes an introduction and orientation to the new Parish Accounting Manual and a comprehensive review of diocesan norms (rules) that apply to the financial activities of parishes. These norms include the requirement that each parish have a finance council and that financial information is reported annually to the people of the parish.
The training workshops are from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and include lunch. The schedule: June 22, St. Andrew the Apostle, Sierra Vista; June 24, St. Thomas the Apostle, Tucson (begins at 8:30 a.m.); June 30, St. Rose of Lima, Safford; July 1, Sts. Peter and Paul, Tucson; July 13, Immaculate Conception, Yuma; July 14, Our Lady of the Valley, Green Valley; July 15, Our Mother of Sorrows, Tucson; July 20, Holy Angels, Globe; July 21, St. George, Apache Junction; and July 22, Bishop Moreno Pastoral Center, Tucson. Depending on the number of persons registering, workshops may be subject to cancellation.
I urge all pastors, parish business and finance managers and the members of parish councils and parish finance councils to attend. Information about and reservations for the training workshops are available by calling the Fiscal Services Office at 792-3410.
4. Parish Matters -- I will be meeting this evening with the community of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Benson to reflect on the concerns that surfaced recently following an allegation of possible misconduct by a priest assigned to the parish.
Our policies for responding to such allegations were followed to the letter, and it is our understanding that criminal prosecution will not be pursued. The priest is no longer in ministry in the Diocese.
We will also talk about the needs of the parish as Father Ray Ratzenberger leaves to become pastor of Our Lady of Fatima in Tucson. I enjoy these opportunities to listen to people in our parishes. It is encouraging to hear how much they love their parish.
5. Pastoral Assignments and Openings -- Father Martin Martinez has accepted an appointment to serve as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Nogales. He is an experienced and very dedicated pastor. We are now looking for priests to serve at St. Helen in Eloy, Our Lady of Lourdes in Benson, and St. Francis of Assisi in Superior.
6. Celebrating Lebanese Heritage -- As many in the Diocese know, my family has Lebanese roots. I have invited some Lebanese families in our community to join me for a Lebanese dinner that will include dishes such as kibbe and hummus. It will be fun sharing stories of the old country and our families. My gratitude to Ceil and John Jacob for their help in organizing the dinner. Joe and Jacqueline Abiad are cooking the dinner. I have been pleased to meet so many Lebanese in Tucson who are contributing greatly to the well-being of this community.
7. Strengthening Youth Ministry -- I will be meeting with a group of youth ministers to consider how we can strengthen our outreach to young people. The meeting on Wednesday will explore ways to bring together our Hispanic and English speaking youth groups. Our young people give me great hope. Their enthusiasm and interest in spiritual growth, their outreach in service are a great inspiration.
8. Sexual Misconduct Review Board -- Our Sexual Misconduct Review Board meets this Thursday. Their work has assisted the diocese greatly over these past two years. They continue to provide their counsel and advice regarding our efforts to protect children.
9. Priests' Day of Prayer -- On Thursday we will have our monthly Priests' Day of Prayer at the Redemptorist Retreat and Renewal at Picture Rocks. This is always an important day of reflection, silence and prayer. Following the Day of Prayer, I will break ground for the new facilities that are being planned at Picture Rocks. I appreciate Father Tom Santa's leadership and the many ways the Redemptorists help out in our Diocese.
10. Pastor Installation -- I look forward to visiting St. Rose of Lima Parish in Safford to install their new pastor, Father Ariel Lustan. Father Ariel is serving as a missionary from the Philippines. His youthful enthusiasm and dedication will do much good in the parish. I am grateful for his willingness to serve.
11. End of the Confirmation Trail -- The final Confirmation of the year for me will take place at St. Theresa Parish in Patagonia. I am grateful to Sister Guadalupe Jurado, O.P., who serves as Pastoral Administrator. She is doing great work, for which I am very grateful. I appreciate the sacramental help the priests of Sacred Heart in Nogales are giving to the parish.
12. Living Stones Celebration -- This Saturday I will acknowledge the accomplishments of our lay ministry candidates who have been studying these past few years in our Living Stones Program. The celebration will take place at Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David. I am very thankful to Margaret Lordon and Father Henri Capdeville, O.S.B., for the work that they have done these past years. I am confident that these laywomen and men will bring their gifts to the service of the Church in our parishes. They have worked hard, and we applaud their accomplishment.
13. Vocation Discernment Retreat -- Also this weekend at Holy Trinity Monastery there is a special retreat for possible candidates for priesthood and religious life. We pray for each of the persons who will participate in the retreat, asking that the Lord will help them discern God's call in their life. I am grateful that several new candidates for the priesthood will begin their studies and preparation this fall. We need them.
14. La Raza Meeting -- La Raza, a major organization concerned with Hispanic affairs, will be gathering in Phoenix this weekend for a meeting and celebration of the Eucharist at which Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix will be principal celebrant and I will preach. At the celebration, we will pray for immigrants and that deaths in the desert will be prevented during this long summer.
In my letter to parishioners that was communicated at Mass the weekend before last about the possibility that the Diocese might pursue Chapter 11 reorganization, I encouraged our Catholic people to send me their comments and suggestions.
I have no way of knowing just how representative are the views expressed in the 48 messages I had received through yesterday. I have heard it said that for every person who takes the time and makes the effort to write on any matter there are 10 or 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 others who feel the same way or have the same opinion. But my purpose in inviting people to express their views was not to conduct a poll. My purpose was simply to be open to hearing what is on the minds and in the hearts of our Catholic people about the possibility that the Diocese could file for Chapter 11 reorganization.
I want to give a sense of what I heard by sharing with you what I perceived were the most common concerns, opinions and questions in the messages I received.
As a preface to that, I want you to know that it was very clear that all who wrote, whatever their opinion about Chapter 11, have strong feelings and real concerns. I greatly appreciated the many messages of personal support and the confidence that many said they will have in the decision I make.
The messages that communicated strong support for the Diocese to pursue Chapter 11 were in these categories:
-- Chapter 11 would help the Diocese get back on a solid financial footing so that it could continue its mission as well as help those who legitimately were hurt by a few priests.
-- In order to serve the People of God, the bishop must protect the limited assets of the Diocese.
-- People who have been abused need to have love and understanding, but the money amounts being awarded are "way out of line."
The messages that communicated strong opposition to pursuing Chapter 11 were in these categories:
-- Chapter 11 would be a shirking of duty and a "cop-out" by the Diocese.
-- Chapter 11 would only further victimize those who have been hurt.
-- The Diocese should dispossess itself of all that it has to make up for the wrongs that have been done.
The questions most frequently asked were: Why won't the Vatican help in this situation? Why is the Diocese still paying Msgr. Trupia? What will be the short-term and long-term results of Chapter 11?
Trying to synthesize the wide range of feeling and opinion in the messages has been difficult, but I have tried to reflect that range fairly and objectively.
I am very sensitive to the concerns that filing for Chapter 11 might further victimize those who have been harmed and that the Diocese and the Church might be seen as trying to escape the consequences of the harm that has been done.
Nothing could be further from my intentions.
Chapter 11 would not be an easy path. It would not be an escape from accountability. On the contrary, it would be a difficult, costly, time-consuming and risky path. Much is unknown about this path. It would be an unprecedented action by a Roman Catholic diocese.
I firmly believe that the litigation path that we have followed these past several years is also fraught with risk, both to the continuance of our Diocese as we know it and to our ability to respond justly and equitably to all victims of abuse.
Our civil legal system operates on a "first come, first served" basis, and recent history has made clear that those who litigate first can get large amounts of money. As you know, the Diocese settled lawsuits in 2002 amounting to millions of dollars. (The exact figure remains confidential at the demand of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.)
In addition, those who choose to litigate represent only a small fraction of those who have been harmed, some of whom we know and some who have not yet made themselves known to us. In our present situation, it is not possible to bring together all those who have experienced harm as a result of abuse and to make distributions of resources for their healing according to needs and the harm experienced. The demands that currently are being made by attorneys on behalf of clients who have claimed abuse are far beyond the assets of the Diocese.
We must find and follow a path that will allow the orderly determination and distribution of available assets for the healing of victims while protecting the ability of our Diocese to carry forward its ministries important to our community. The pastoral care of the elderly, the education of our young people, social services for the poor and the spiritual care of the Catholic community remain important works of the Church, as do our efforts to protect children from abuse.
The implementation of our safe environment program has required significant resources from the Diocese and all our parishes and schools. We must be assured that resources will be there to maintain and enhance this program that emphasizes background screening of employees and volunteers and child abuse awareness and prevention training. The current situation of litigation strains our ability to fund the safe environment program.
Some who wrote asked why the Vatican does not help the Diocese financially in this matter. I look at the world today. It is a world full of suffering and injustice: famine, genocide and cruel subjugation of people. I see what the Holy Father has done and continues to try to do to address that suffering, through the prayer and generosity of Catholics around the world, including our own diocesan response to the Peter's Pence collection.
During my recent visit to the Vatican, I heard again and again about important new initiatives being taken by the Holy See to promote peace, to alleviate poverty in the Third World, to assist migrants and the displaced and to advocate for the protection of all life, from conception through death.
Ultimately, it is my responsibility as your bishop to respond to the sin and betrayal of trust that happened here.
Some who wrote asked about the continued payment of sustenance to Msgr. Robert Trupia. I have every confidence that this matter will be finished soon. The Holy Father and the Vatican know well the urgency of this situation and the concern that many have expressed. To discontinue his sustenance now would only complicate the process that is near to its end.
Reviewing the messages from those who wrote in support of pursuing Chapter 11, I saw clearly that many Catholics understand that if the Diocese were to file for Chapter 11 reorganization it would not mean that the Church would close its doors, but that the Diocese would have the time to develop a plan for the determination of assets that could be used and the orderly distribution of those assets to meet the needs of all those who have been harmed while at the same time it continues the mission and ministries of the Church.
Others who support pursuing Chapter 11 wrote that while they feel saddened by the tragic fact of sexual abuse of children by some priests, they are dismayed by the passive response of many dioceses, especially in respect to the number of claims made on the basis of repressed memory. They were clear in communicating their empathy for those who have been victimized, but also made clear that they believe that not all claims are legitimate and that some people are taking advantage of the Church. It is, of course, absolutely necessary, in justice to those who have been truly harmed and to those who have been accused, to investigate carefully each allegation. This effort alone sorely stretches the human and financial resources of the diocese.
Another feeling commonly expressed is that while there is understanding of the emphasis on support for victims of abuse, parishioners of the past, present and future have not been the cause of such abuse. There was the feeling that litigation against the Diocese creates a sense among Catholics in general that they are being blamed, and there is resentment at having their parish resources used or threatened. They feel strongly that what they give to their parishes should only be spent for the pastoral work of the Church. Some express alarm that what they have given would be used for purposes other than this intention.
Some who wrote urged continued commitment on the part of the Diocese and the larger Church in the U.S. to providing safe environments and the continued prompt implementation of policies to ensure the safety of children. Of course, I share that goal, and it too is part of the hope of an orderly process by which to redress harm while continuing the mission and ministries of the Diocese of Tucson.
In summary, there were many different opinions from many different perspectives. I appreciate each one.
I want you to know that the motivation driving whatever decision will be made is my hope for a path that will help satisfy and meet both the desire to make amends and our absolute commitment to continue the mission of the Diocese.
I continue to ponder and to pray. I ask you to do the same. I encourage our parishes to include in their prayers this intention; that I will lead wisely.
Many of the messages I received last week contained support for me personally. I am grateful for the expressions of concern and solidarity. Among those messages was this one:
"Want you to know that I pray for you and all that you are struggling with lately. I am a 'poor' shut-in and I don't have a million $$$ to give, but I have many hours to pray for my Church -- and you."
That message humbled me.
1. Notifying Parishes of Allegations -- As you know, it is the policy of the Diocese, upon the recommendation of the Sexual Misconduct Review Board, to notify parishes when there have been allegations against Church personnel of sexual misconduct involving minors.
Such notices are made publicly to the parishes at which the Church personnel worked and to the larger community for two reasons: to inform parishioners that there is an allegation against someone who ministered at their parish and to encourage any person who may have experienced abuse to come forward so that a report can be made to law enforcement and counseling support can be offered.
The notices I made over the weekend to five parishes about allegations against three Church personnel emphasize the dilemma the Diocese faces in trying to heal the pain of victims while continuing the mission of the Church. Obviously, we are becoming aware of additional allegations and additional victims. This only reinforces the need to find an orderly way for the Diocese to respond justly and equitably to all those who have been hurt.
2. Interim Director of Formation -- I am very pleased to announce that Father Rick Zamorano has agreed to serve as interim director of the diocesan Office of Formation, beginning July 1. Father Rick, a priest of the Diocese of El Paso, is a full-time faculty member at Salpointe Catholic High School and chair of the high school's Theology Department. He brings many gifts to this important work, which includes the important responsibility of overseeing the joint formation program that begins this fall for our deacon candidates and candidates for lay ministry. He is an excellent administrator and an engaging teacher who is very familiar with the formation process. He will be assisted by Ruben Davalos of the Office of Evangelization and Hispanic Ministry and by Margaret Lordon of the Formation Office, whom I thank for her dedication and commitment in helping to get the joint formation program up and running.
3. Council of Youth and Young Adults -- The newly established Council of Youth and Young Adults met last week under the leadership of Mike Berger, director of the diocesan Office of Catechesis, and Ruben Davalos.
Several decisions were made to enhance our diocesan outreach to youth and young adults:
-- An assessment of the status of the youth and young adult program in each parish will be made.
-- A Youth Congress will be held on Saturday, Aug. 21, at St. Francis de Sales Parish from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with an optional social afterward. Each parish, Catholic high school and youth movement will be asked to nominate two youth representatives (sophomore through seniors) to participate. Each pastor, principal and youth minister is being asked to nominate representatives. A letter and form are being sent out this week. I ask our parish and schools to please return them promptly. Pastors and Youth Ministers will be invited to participate, and, if they prefer, help as staff.
-- A youth recognition dinner will be held in the spring. Parishes, Catholic high schools and youth movements will be invited to nominate a teen to be recognized at the event.
-- A Lenten Scripture reflection series will be offered at St. Augustine Cathedral for Young Adults.
-- The diocesan website will include links to resources for youth and young adult ministry.
I am grateful to Mike Berger and the Council for their creative ideas and enthusiasm to reach out to our youth and young adults. The participation of all in this effort is needed and appreciated.
4. "The Legacy of the Popes" -- I know San Diego is a very popular vacation get-away for Arizonans. So many us populate San Diego and its near-by beaches this time of year that the natives there have a nickname for us: "Zonies."
If you are headed to San Diego this summer or if you need a little more encouragement to go, I can strongly recommend a visit to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park. The museum is hosting "St. Peter and the Vatican: the Legacy of the Popes." This special exhibition explores the 2,000-year history of the papacy with important historical objects, precious liturgical items, rare documents and spectacular works of art, many of which have never left the Vatican or been on public view.
There is more information on the exhibition at the museum's website.
5. Vacation for Monday Memo -- Monday Memo of next Monday will be the last for a few weeks. I will be reporting next Monday on the consultations this week with our clergy, religious and laity on the possibility of pursuing Chapter 11 reorganization.