Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Letters to the Editor

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Inland Register
P.O. Box 48
Spokane, WA 99210-0048
Fax: (509) 358-7302

(From the March 16, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Settlement offer: ‘let us all ... be on our way’


Many of us talk too much. St James undoubtedly had that in mind when he wrote: “Be slow to speak, but swift to hear” (James 1:19). Writing about leadership, Robert Greenleaf suggests: “When you really have to say something, put your hand over your mouth and point!” He was that emphatic about the need for less talk. These were my initial thoughts upon reading of the non-monetary aspects of the Diocesan settlement offered to the victims (“Diocese makes $45.75 million settlement offer to 75 victims,” IR 2/23/06).

I wondered if people of God should be talking about “stories of abuse” over and over again from the pulpit and in the newspapers? Even more so, are we to listen? Would not the “stories” be dangerously close to what St Paul warned us about? “Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones” (Ephesians 5:3). If we are to be “swift to hear,” let us swiftly hear the Word of God.

In the NIV Concordance, I counted over 100 references to “forgiveness.” The classic one seems to be in St Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3:13): “…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.” And isn’t this in the Lord’s Prayer? “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12). No amount of talk or money will lead to places like “healing” or “peace.” Those sites will be reached only by going down the road of forgiveness! So, let us all, victims and non-victims, be on our way!

Walter Stichart, Colville, Wash.

A letter to Bishop Skylstad

Your Excellency:

I have been reading of the struggles of the Spokane Diocese with regard to the abuse “scandals” and was inspired to drop you a note to say that I stand behind your decisions 100 percent. You are doing the right thing. I know that this is a difficult issue with which you grapple, but I am seeing a reaffirmation of something that I have already observed with you. God’s law is truly written on your heart, wherein it belongs. And that strengthens me when I think about the future of our Church.

I have been listening repeatedly to a talk on Romans and it strikes me that you fully understand your role as our shepherd. There are two Biblical principles upon which I am seeing you directly drawing in making your decisions, and it offers me a great deal of hope that this Diocese will get through the financial difficulties ahead. And because you are following these principles, I see that there are two huge benefits that will occur because of the settlement.

In terms of the Biblical principles, the first principle is that we cannot serve God and money. Sometimes, doing the right thing is painful financially. However, in this case, if there is indeed abuse, then it is right to offer the victims of abuse something that will help to make it better. That’s the Christian thing to do, and I see from your response to this issue that you are indeed a Christian, a fact which might make some fundamentalists cringe.

The Catholic Church is second only to the State of Washington in the amount of money generated yearly for charitable purposes in Washington state. So, we already put our money where our mouth is. Is not doing the right thing for the victims also a charitable and just act? It is. So this is also money well spent.

The dollar amount in question truly strains the diocese’s ability to retain existing assets, which will hurt many parishes. This has caused many within the diocese to question your decision, saying such things as, “why do we all have to pay for the abuses by only a few priests? It’s not our fault that this happened.” Well, that’s possibly true. I can’t answer that question. But, how many of us are without sin? The answer is, none. So, we cannot, in good conscience, cast the first stone with regard to this. The Church is One, the bride of Christ. If we are not united in difficult times, when doing the right thing is painful to us personally, then how can we move forward with the gospel message? This is chopped liver compared to what Christians in Rome suffered. It’s not like we’re being asked to be eaten alive by lions.

The second principle is that suffering is beneficial for our spiritual growth. If we suffer over this issue, we will learn a great lesson that will carry us forward to better days. We will each be more vigilant in watching you and our priests to make sure that we’re all collectively encouraging one another to move down the right path. This means that we each will be taking a measure of responsibility for the growth of our Church, instead of incorrectly abrogating that responsibility to you and our priests. We also show non-Catholics that we are willing to humble ourselves to take on this burden in order to do the right thing. That is a strong witness!

Also, your decision to allow the victims to share their stories with each parish goes a long way toward healing their pain and bringing them, and us, back into communion with one another. It’s no longer a secret, and it is good. We are the new Jerusalem, the family of God. And, we should be one, together.

You have allowed a spiritual win-win. We learn a lesson about our own humility to God’s desires and the victims are allowed to openly grieve their loss of self esteem that was taken at the hands of a few that were given authority over them.

I just wanted you to know that someone out here is pulling for you. I am glad to have you there.

I recommend that you take advantage of the resurgence of Catholic radio station media as another way to address your flock and tell them “your” side of the story.

Bob Krebs, Pullman, Wash.

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