Archbishop's Reflections 8/13

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This past week I was on my annual silent retreat and the accusations
against Archbishop McCarrick were a part of my prayer. Faithful have
written to me and have asked questions about the situation. Some
have felt that the Lord has abandoned the Church. Other bishops
have spoken out on this tragedy, and today I offer to you, the faithful
of the archdiocese and my brother priests and deacons, the following
As noted by Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops
conference, the revelations about Archbishop McCarrick have caused
both bishops and the laity “anger, sadness, and shame.” Personally, I
am deeply sorry that both laity and clergy have had to experience this
type of betrayal. In response, I am asking every priest in the
archdiocese to offer a Mass each month in reparation for the sins
committed by cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons, and for all sins
committed by clergy and lay people against the commandments of our
Lord, as well as to pray for healing for the victims of sin. This Mass is
to be announced publicly so the lay faithful can attend and offer
prayers in reparation for these grave sins that have wounded so many
and for their own sins.
The staff of the Archdiocese of Denver and I strive to make every
effort to ensure that such things do not occur here. Our preventative
measures include: background checks, safe environment classes,
mandatory reporter training, creating a conduct response team that is
primarily made up of lay people, an annual independent audit of our
abuse reporting structures, having a laywoman (Christi Sullivan, 303-
715-3241 or serve as the coordinator
of our Safe Environment Office, which deals with all cases of any type
of abuse against minors by clergy or laity, and providing psychological
screening for candidates for the priesthood.
We also have a Victim’s Assistance Coordinator, Jim Langley, Psy.D.,
who can be contacted at 720-239-2832 or If anyone in the archdiocese has an
abuse situation concerning any member of the clergy or a lay
employee of the archdiocese with a minor or the elderly, they may
contact one of them. Both Bishop Rodriguez and I take these matters
with the utmost seriousness.
During my retreat, my director encouraged me to pray with the calls of
Isaiah, Jeremiah and Samuel. In praying with the call of Samuel, I was
struck by the Lord’s words to Samuel concerning Eli. The Lord told
Samuel to tell Eli, “…I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken
concerning his house from beginning to end. And I tell him that I am
about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity which he knew,
because his sons were blaspheming, and he did not restrain them.
(1 Samuel 3: 12-13, emphasis added). Too many seminarians, priests
and bishops knew of Archbishop McCarrick’s behavior and did not
restrain him.
Due to this, I call on the U.S. bishops’ conference to ask for and allow
an independent investigation that includes members of the lay faithful
and those clergy who had nothing to do with the matter. Since the
oversight of bishops and cardinals falls under the jurisdiction of Rome,
I humbly ask Pope Francis to conduct an independent investigation
like he did in Chile.
Like Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, so have I wept for the Church
and for the innocent victims. I remember when I visited Auschwitz for
the first time in 1988. As I walked with horror in my heart over the
palpable evil present, pondering how could human beings do this to
other human beings, I heard in prayer, only Jesus Christ and he alone
can redeem this evil. The same is true with the sexual abuse crisis of
today, as well as with the emptying of our pews, and the abandonment
of God by the world. So, what must we do?
We must recognize that complacency about evil and sin is present
both in the Church and the world and has led us to where we are
today. This culture of complacency among clergy and laity must come
to an end!
We have also failed to recognize that the spiritual battle is real. Some
say the Lord has forsaken the Church, but this is not true. Rather,
there are some within the Church who have forsaken Jesus and the
Gospel. Pope Francis speaks often in his homilies of the devil and his
workings. The devil is real and pulls us away from the ways of Jesus
and the love of the Father. The devil uses confusion, chaos,
discouragement, and negative thinking to draw us away from Jesus.
When one looks at salvation history one sees, beginning with Adam
and Eve, moving through the Old and New Testaments, and down
through the centuries to now, that it is human beings who abandon the
ways of God. When the ways of God are abandoned, God lets human
beings go their own way and there are always dire consequences.
Jesus tells his disciples in John 15 that “apart from me you can do
nothing” and he further tells us that if we separate ourselves from the
vine, Jesus, we will wither. Perhaps the reason for our empty pews,
the sharp decline of the faith in Europe and the west, the decimation
of many religious orders, and the sexual abuse crisis is that we are not
attached to Jesus, the true vine. At the heart of this crisis today is a
spiritual crisis that depends more on the solutions of men than on the
Gospel and Jesus. The cost of discipleship is real and it includes
dying to ourselves, a complete surrender to Jesus, who loves us and
desires only our good and joy (Lk 9: 23-26; Lk 14: 25-35; Mt 16: 24; Jn
Thus, our response to this complacency must be a return to the ways
of God, which lays out the path of grace that preserves us from the
real dangers of sin and the attacks of the evil one. The Father has
given us his son Jesus, the Beatitudes, the Gospels, the truth, and his
commandments out of love for us to keep us on the narrow way of
love. He is merciful in all that he has given to us. Charity and truth
must always go together. A disciple should never lead someone into
sin or condone sin. Jesus never condoned sin! But rather taught that
for the unrepentant, the consequence for doing so is hell (Mk 9:42, Lk
17: 1-4). Just as a parent provides boundaries for their children for
their own good and protection, so has the Lord provided for us.
All of us within the Church, including the Holy Father, cardinals,
bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated and laypersons need to
examine our consciences and ask ourselves: Do I truly know, love and
serve the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit? And do I follow the ways
of Jesus or the ways of the world? In the formation of my conscience
do I listen to the voice of God, the voice of the world, or my own voice,
and do I test the voice I hear to make sure that it is in accord with the
Gospel? Have I personally put my faith in Jesus Christ, and in this
time of tribulation do I keep my eyes fixed on “Jesus the leader and
perfecter of faith” (Heb 12: 2)? Do I know where I have come from;
that God loves me and knew me before I was born (Ps 139)? Do I
know where I am going, that I am created for eternal life and to know
the Father, as Jesus knows him (Jn 8:14)? Do I truly believe that
intimacy with Jesus can heal the wounds of my sins, weakness, or
brokenness? And finally, as Jesus so frequently reminds his disciples
in John 14 and 15, those who love him keep the commandments, just
as he kept the Father’s commandments. Do I do that?
Pope Francis and every pope since Blessed Paul VI, has called us to
a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ. This encounter leads to faith in
Jesus Christ and a deep personal relationship with him, who in turn
leads us to the Father and the Holy Spirit. His desire is for each
disciple to be one with the Father and him. Once we put our faith in
Jesus, love him and keep the commandments, then the Father and
the Son will make their home in our hearts (Jn 14:23). Each one of us
must pray for a deeper faith in Jesus each day, the faith that will move
mountains (Mt 17:20) and make us into missionary disciples. With
God “all things are possible,” (Mk 10:27) and that includes the
forgiveness of our sins, the healing of our wounds, becoming a saint,
and living a life of holiness and virtue, including chastity. And that
brings me to another important aspect of this crisis.
Cardinal DiNardo noted in his statement that “the Church is suffering
from a crisis of sexual morality” and it is not just the Church, it is the
world. Sadly, too many, both clergy and lay, have listened more to the
world than to Christ and the Church when it comes to human
sexuality. The consequences of the worldly approach to sexuality are
clear in the distortion of this precious gift and the confusion about
sexuality that grows daily.
The teaching of the Church on human sexuality has been clear over
the centuries, and St. John Paul II helped tremendously with his
positive message about the Theology of the Body. Furthermore, those
who have received the teaching of the Church and have been
accompanied in a loving and merciful way, both young and old, have
testified to the truth contained in this teaching, as well as the healing,
freedom and joy it brings. This is observed in many of the young
people whom I have encountered through the Fellowship of Catholic
University Students program, those who have walked in the
Neocatechumenal Way, those who have shared in Living Waters or
Courage retreats, or participated in Sexaholics Anonymous. Their
witness, joy and freedom are real, and it embraces the truth of who
they are in the merciful eyes of the God. The God who heals and
restores order.
Amidst the darkness of the sexual revolution and all that it has brought
about, the Church must decisively return to the truth, dignity and
beauty of human sexuality.
We must teach that every sexual act that takes place outside of a
marriage between a man and woman, is not in keeping with God’s
plan for our happiness. When one separates the procreative aspect
from sex, one can justify just about any sexual act. As Blessed Paul VI
noted in Humanae Vitae, this separation has had and will continue to
have negative consequences on the Church and society.
We must also teach that, according to the Sacred Scripture and
tradition, “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are
contrary to the natural law and they “do not proceed from a genuine
affective and sexual complementarity.” (Catechism of the Catholic
Church, 2357).
We must also be sure to carefully form seminarians, as we have been
doing in the archdiocese for quite some time. However, all seminaries
need to devote special attention to the formation of our future priests
and their education in chastity, so that they can develop an authentic
maturity, and embrace celibacy for the Kingdom of God, respecting
and fostering the nuptial meaning of their bodies (Pastores Dabo
Vobis, 44). Chastity is a great good that needs to be lived!
The sexual revolution occurring in our culture, which essentially says,
“Anything goes if adults consent to it,” is not the way of God and only
leads to where we are today. We must be willing to accompany people
into the truth of Jesus Christ who will set them free to live the virtues,
which bring true freedom, peace and joy.
In closing, I ask all of us to remember to pray and stay close to the
heart of Jesus, to ask for the humility of Jesus and the gift of loving
others as Jesus loves (Jn 13:34). Every disciple must pray for the gift
of faith and a deeper trust and confidence in Jesus, most especially in
his healing power. We must pray for all victims of sexual abuse in our
culture today, for their healing and their encounter with Jesus Christ,
who can bring healing to them.
We must pray for the clergy of the Church, the Pope, cardinals,
bishops, priests and deacons, that the Holy Spirit will stir into flame
the gifts he has bestowed on them, help them to be faithful to Christ
and the Gospel, and to be true servants of the faithful with the heart of
Christ. We must pray for the Church, our Mother, that is holy, though
having sinners in her midst, and suffers for the offenses of all her
Let us pray for the virtue of hope, so that we come to the awareness
that we can do all things in Christ, who gives us the strength to be
saints (Phil 4:13). Let us ask for the gift of piety, so that we truly
behave as God’s children and reverence our own and each other’s
bodies as temples of the Spirit. Let us beg for the grace to have pure
hearts (Mt 5: 7).
Finally, as those who belong to Jesus, we must pray for our enemies
and those who persecute us. We can never wish evil or seek
vengeance on another (PV 24:29; Mt 5: 44-48; Col 3:13; Rom 12:19-
21). Every human being is a sinner whom Jesus loves and is in need
of the mercy of Jesus. Jesus forgave every human being from the
Cross when he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they
do.” No matter how egregious the sin, the Lord is willing to forgive us if
we “repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). This forgiveness, like
his love, must be received.  He reminds us to be merciful as his Father
is merciful and that the Father loves both the just and unjust (Mt 5:44-
48). In this time of darkness, may we put our faith, trust and love in
Jesus who is our Savior and Redeemer, the one who will free us, and
may we live in his truth and light!
With the love of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd,
Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila, S.T.L.
Archbishop of Denver
Given in Denver on August 13, 2018.