Dear Parishioners,

I write this letter to you in light of the sex abuse in the Church that has been recently exposed. As I said from the pulpit, I am angry, hurt, embarrassed, and confused. I am filled with sorrow for the victims.  I am sure you feel the same.

One of the questions that has been buzzing in my head is “what can I do – what can the OLA community do”? I know that I can’t, we can’t, stay in that space. So what do we do?

I am calling for a Healing Rosary this coming Wednesday, August 29 at 7pm so that we can come together as a community to show our support for all the victims and their families, as well as our Church and ourselves.

The only bright light in this revelation of abuse is that it is in the past. The bishops led by Archbishop Wilton Gregory when he was president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 put  into practice guidelines to STOP these abuses and they have been successful.  Every diocese in the US now has in place strict safe environment procedures to protect our most vulnerable members.

I honestly, perhaps naively, thought that these abuses were in our past and that everything had been exposed.  I was wrong. With all this said, I believe that more of these revelations will come to light in many dioceses and archdioceses around the country and the world. And I pray that we will have come to a point of transparency in the Church.

We live in a time of hurt, but also in a time of opportunity.

Saint Augustine of Hippo said that “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”  

Be angry. You should be angry. We should all be angry. But don’t let the anger overwhelm you and don’t remain stuck in it. Let that anger become the courage to speak out to bring about true change in the Church. Without you, the laity, the Church cannot heal from this crisis. Without you, true change cannot be made. Let your voices be heard.

I continue to encourage you to reach out to Archbishop Gregory to express your feelings, but also have the courage to offer your prayers and support. He can be reached via email at archbishop@archatl.com or by mail:  The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta, 2401 Lake Park Drive SE, Smyrna, GA 30080.

Closer to home, I implore you to talk to your children – or any vulnerable person in your life – in an age appropriate manner. Teach them to protect themselves – and assure them that they can always come to you and be believed, supported, and loved unconditionally.

If you or a loved one is ever a victim of abuse by Church personnel – or any other individual – let someone know. My door is always open. Contact the Archdiocesan Abuse Hotline at 1-888-437-0764. Contact the proper Church and legal authorities. Don’t be silent.

And don’t lose the faith. The Church is perfect, led by the Holy Spirit. The Church is imperfect, administered by humans.  Be angry with the institutional failings, but don’t lose your faith in the Catholic Church that Christ handed to Peter saying, “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” There is nothing that humans can do to destroy the Church that Christ founded. I don’t know what is ahead for the Church, but we will get through this and grow stronger together.

As a priest and your pastor, I can tell you that many good, holy, innocent men who have dedicated their lives to serving God and His people are suffering as a result of the recent reports of abuse. I ask that you pray for me and my brother priests as we struggle to find answers and continue to serve our communities.

Again, I ask you to come to the Healing Rosary next Wednesday evening to begin a healing for us at OLA and to take a beginning step to transform our Church.

You remain in my prayers.

Yours in Mary, Our Mother,

Father Jim