Monday, June 19, 2006

Final Pastor's Page Message From Father George Welzbacher at St Agnes

On this my final weekend as pastor of St Agnes Parish I wish to state first of all how grateful I am to the Archbishop for providing our parish with a wonderful new pastor in the person my dear friend and former student Father John Ubel. Father Ubel possesses the qualities of mind and spirit that, transformed by God’s grace, will be needed for the successful implementation of our parish’s program of service to Christ and to the Church. I am grateful as well for the Archbishop’s assigning Father Randal Kasel to serve our parish as associate pastor. Over and above his many natural gifts his kindness and his humility are qualities that will endear him to our congregation and to the children and young people in the St Agnes Schools. And as a protégé of Monsignor Schuler he brings to his new charge a hands-on familiarity with the traditions of our parish. We couldn’t ask for a better tream! We welcome Father Ubel and Father Kasel with a pledge of our eager and whole-hearted collaboration in the mission of bringing souls to Christ! God speed!

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As I step aside for a while from the responsibilities of a pastor --- though for the next several weeks I will continue to live here in the rectory at Father Ubel’s request to help with the Masses and confessions --- may I take this opportunity to express a final public “Thank You” to all of you who over the past five years have contributed in so many ways and so richly to the viability of our parish and to that of the St Agnes Schools! May God bless you, one and all! Your prayers, your words of encouragement and your willingness to give generously of your time, talent and treasure to a multiplicity of parish projects have made my years here, despite some initial difficulties, all in all very happy years. I am deeply grateful! And, more importantly by far, Almighty God is grateful! He never forgets a service and He is generous beyond all measure in granting reward. May His grace, His mercy and the peace that He alone can give be with you, now and forever!

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For this my final Pastor’s Page here at St Agnes I see no compelling reason not to follow my usual practice of offering comment on current trends and events in the light of Catholic teaching. And so “here goes!” with a glance at two major assaults currently being mounted against the Person (the Divine Person) of Jesus Christ and against His Church. I am referring in the first instance to the film (and to the novel on which the film is based) The DaVinci Code and in the second instance to the media’s on-going campaign to discredit and (were that possible) to silence the Church by tarring America’s Catholic priests en masse with the shame that properly accrues to the sins of a few. There is a strategic coherence that binds these two campaigns: to the extent that reverence for the authority of Christ Himself is diminished and to the extent that respect for Christ’s Church can be impaired, the road is cleared for the ultimate triumph of a radically secular humanistic society, the kind of godless society that the media elites for the most part seem to favor and promote.

Let me address first the effort to discredit the entire Catholic priesthood because of the vicious behavior of a very small percentage of America’s priests over the course of the past half century, behavior which for the most part took pace at the height of the great revolt against the Church’s teaching on sexual morality, i.e. from the later 1960’s through the 1980’s, from the Woodstock Era and the Charlie Curran-led rebellion against Humanae Vitae (1968) to the beginnings of a counterrevolution among the younger clergy, the counterrevolution that the aging rebel Andy Greeley has repeatedly deplored. Given the wholesale repudiation of Catholic moral teachings that prevailed in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, deviant sexual behavior was not simply predictable, it was all but inevitable. Ideas have consequences. Bad ideas have consequences that are evil. When seminarians are taught and priests are persuaded that the divinely guided teachings of Christ’s Church are mistaken and that anything can go by the name of “love” is O.K., then a hitherto very powerful countervailing force against what is Known traditionally (and very wisely) as concupiscence is removed. And when that countervailing force is removed, fallen human nature takes over very quickly and trouble, big trouble, is on the way.

Disgusting, shocking and scandalous as the predatory seduction of the young by members of the clergy most emphatically must be judged to be --- Christ the Lord has spoken of millstones --- the fact that such behavior stands in flagrant contradiction to the teaching of the Church exonerates the Church itself and its teaching. The teaching of the Church is holy. It is when that teaching is contemptuously cast aside that the gates are flung wide open to Satan.

An excellent analysis of this whole sordid episode I nthe history of American Catholicism appeared on the Op-Ed page of the June the seventh edition of the New York Times in the form of an advertisement paid for by the Catholic League for Religion and Civil Rights. I reprint it here.

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In June 2002, U.S. bishops assembled in Dallas for their biannual meeting. It was not a happy time: the sexual abuse scandal dominated the news about the Catholic Church. Next week, the bishops will meet in Los Angeles, only this time few in the media are focusing on the scandal. That’s too bad because this time the news is quite different.

In March, the third annual report on priestly sexual abuse of minors was released; a supplementary report was also issued by John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Here’s what was found:

  • The vast majority of sexual abuse cases occurred between the mid1960s and the mid-1980s
  • In 2005, 783 credible accusations against 532 priests were made, 87 percent of which involved abuse that occurred before the 1990s
  • 81 percent of the victims were male, and most were not little kids--they were postpubescent (the identical figure was reported in cases found between 1950 and 2002)
  • There were 21 allegations made for acts that took place in 2005: five were found to be credible; two were still under investigation; and insufficient information was found in two instances
  • Adding the above figures yields a total of nine. Nine out of a total of 42,000 priests means that .02 percent of priests had a credible accusation made against him last year

It is highly unlikely that there are many institutions or demographic groups with a better record than this (e.g., it is estimated that the rate of sexual abuse of public school students is more than 100 times the abuse by priests). Obviously, one victim is too many. But when 99.98 percent of priests today are not under suspicion—and indeed most are good men—it is outrageous that they continue to be subjected to vile depictions in the media, sneering remarks by educators and inequitable treatment by lawmakers.

Stereotypes do not die easily, but it is high time our cultural elite began to treat priests with the degree of respect they’ve earned. Sweeping condemnations of any group is rightly regarded as bigotry. Including Catholic priests.

William A. Donahue


Catholic League For Religious Civil Rights

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[snip] I have deleted Father Welzbacher’s comments on the Da Vinci Code since much has been written about that movie. If you want to see the pdf file of the St Agnes Bulletin and the full transcript of the final Pastor’s Page, go to:

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