Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, 2012
Preached at St. Henry Catholic Church, Lake Charles, La. 

“In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:7-9).

Those words come from our second reading in today’s Mass for this the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  I have chosen them to begin my remarks because I think they express not only what Jesus Christ did for our salvation but also what it is we are called to do. 

We are, all of us, devastated at the news announced Friday that a former priest, assigned to this parish, has been charged with the molestation of a child.  This sexual misconduct is reported to have taken place during the years 1988 to 1991.  The victim and I first met personally on December 22, 2011, and he reported to me his dreadful ordeal.  No one in the present administration of the Diocese or I knew of this incident before the victim came forward and spoke to us in December of 2011.  Having received this credible accusation in December of 2011, I would have removed the priest from ministry.  This could not be done, because the accused had already resigned from the priesthood in 1994.   I immediately informed the civil authorities through our diocesan attorney.   In their investigation, the authorities obtained files and records which now reveal other accusations which the Diocese received through 1998.  At present, the Office of the District Attorney has sole jurisdiction over this matter.  I have always and will continue to cooperate with all authorities in the pursuit of any investigations.

I wish to re-assure you, the parishioners of St. Henry Parish, and all the clergy and lay faithful of the Diocese of Lake Charles that I take very seriously the responsibilities given to me in 2007 when I was assigned to the Diocese as Bishop.  One of the most serious of these is the protection of our children and youth.  The Charter issued by the Bishops of the United States and re-affirmed in 2011 is clear.  My resolve to follow it and the laws governing our civil jurisdiction is definitive.        Should the occasion arise any accusations of sexual misconduct with minors would be reported to the appropriate authorities.  These same accusations would be investigated by my office, and if found credible, the perpetrator would be immediately removed from ministry or service.

Sexual misconduct with a minor is reprehensible for many reasons.  I will mention three in particular.  First, it leads youth astray by robbing them of their innocence.  Our Lord in the Gospel had particularly harsh words of condemnation for anyone who led children astray.  Second, it is the violation of a sacred trust.  The victims suffer catastrophic consequences in later life.  Someone whom they thought represented all that was holy harmed them and shattered their trust at a vulnerable age.  Finally, it offends the sacred.  All of us are “temples of the Holy Spirit,” as the Sacred Scriptures teach, and the holiness of God overflows into the Sacramental life of the Church and into the sacred places where those mysteries of our faith are celebrated.  We must always bring our best to the Lord and the celebration of His Sacraments.  The world and its perversions must remain outside a sacred place.    

With our Lord, we offer “prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).  Through His obedience to suffering He learned obedience to the Father’s will.  So must we.  I am inviting you and the faithful of the Diocese to join me in a day of serious Fasting and Prayer this Friday, March 30.  On the day of the week on which our Lord suffered and died, we will pray in expiation for our sins.  I will beg forgiveness for my own.  I encourage you to do likewise.  We must take upon ourselves the injuries suffered by the victims.  We will pray for them and their families.  May they never lose a place in our hearts, prayers and efforts to assist them.  Let this Friday, March 30, be a moment of recommitment to the pursuit of holiness, begging our Lord to pardon us for the sins of the past and promising to correct what needs to be corrected.  May the Lord, who is “the source of eternal salvation,” foster in us a holy obedience to God’s commandments, to what is right and just.