Father Robert Silva and Father Stephen Rossetti
On the Recent Pedophilia Scandals
Child sex abuse by some priests has made all priests sad, angry and ashamed, said Father Stephen Rossetti, a priest-psychologist and Father Robert Silva of the National Federation of Priests' Councils in open letters to all U.S. priests.
The two priests call on their brother priests to have courage.
Father Silva reported that he had met, visited and prayed with priests in six states in the past five weeks, and everywhere "the fervor of their faith, the vitality of their faith communities and the quality of care for the poor attest to their strength, their maturity, their leadership, their prayer and their love. Everywhere there are priests who are good, holy and loving pastoral leaders."
Father Silva offers several suggestions for meeting the challenges of the child molestation scandal.
— First, there are enough victims to go around, we do not need to see ourselves as victims, caught helplessly in the fray of media frenzies. But we do need to make the words of the psalmist our own: 'Have mercy on me, Lord, I have no strength; Lord, heal me, my body is racked."
Restoring trust in the priesthood has to start with priests trusting "that our God is with us even now and that our God will lead us onward."
— Second, rather than withdrawing from our people, we must bond more closely with them.” We cannot stop loving because we are afraid or embarrassed."
— Third, “Priests must "name the problem. We have to talk about it and listen to what our people have to say. ... The more we learn, the better our policies, the stronger our procedures."
Father Silva calls for a hard and down-to-earth look "at the system in which we live. ... Is how we live truly supportive of our priesthood and our ministry? Is there a more effective way to deal with the long hours, the loneliness, the celibacy, the criticism, the frustrations? ... Facile responses that place blame -- e.g., blame it on celibacy -- are not helpful. In the context of prayer, intense discussion and study is called for."
Father Rossetti challenges the accusations that bishops have been callous, secretive and more concerned about the church's reputation than protecting children.
From years of working closely with bishops, he has learned that they are "bright and hard-working men. They are faith-filled and try their best to do what is right. They are concerned about their priests and they are concerned about the people of their dioceses, including the children."
Despite the widespread negative press, most Catholics remain supportive of their priests, "People love and respect their priests. We priests have stood by our people when they were sick and suffering. Now, in our time of need, they are standing by us."