The Michigan Attorney General has released a report on sexual abuse in the Diocese of Gaylord titled, ” Diocese of Gaylord A Complete Accounting”.  Gaylord Diocesan Watch has reviewed the report.  Our findings are given as a series of articles.  These articles contain sensitive material that may not be suitable for non-adult audiences. Gaylord Diocesan Watch is committed to spreading truth for the good of the Gaylord Diocese. It is our desire to describe the following information with as much respect and charity as possible.  In addition to the links in articles, interested individuals may find the Attorney General’s Report in our Document Library.

We recently  asked our readers to give their perspectives about the recent listening sessions sponsored by the Diocese.  With the author’s permission, we have chosen to publish this parishioner’s thoughts.  The author’s name has been omitted to protect the author’s privacy.

Like many, I’ve been outraged by the revelations of pervasive clergy sexual abuse in the last years and continually disappointed by the Church’s response. I have skimmed the recently published report of the Michigan Attorney General on clergy sexual abuse in the Gaylord Diocese. I refrained from reading the whole report in detail, finding its contents too injurious to the soul. Yet, I was intrigued to learn about the Listening Sessions organized at Bishop Walsh’s direction and curious enough to attend one, at Immaculate Conception Church in Traverse City, on 2/4/24. I’m glad I did.

Diocesan Watch has posted a series of reactions to the AG’s Report and has been generally critical of the incompleteness of the Church’s response, to date. I have no quarrel with the criticism. But Diocesan Watch also solicited feedback from anyone who attended a Listening Session. This memorandum is a summary of my impressions of the Listening Session I attended, as a listener.

Passion

I knew this would not be a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Still, “jarring” is the word for the frankness and passion with which two dozen members of the faithful addressed their Bishop for a good 90 minutes after opening prayer. As we enter into Lent, we anticipate our Lord’s Passion. Passion is a word in which we discern two elements, love and suffering. Both elements were on full display in the Listening Session.

Generally, those who commented were not direct victims of any of the alleged abuse summarized in the AG’s Report. Rather, they are local parishioners who’ve been actively involved in the Church for many years, love the Church, and now suffer in outrage and a sense of betrayal at the revelation of the extent of this evil in our midst. Their outrage and sense of betrayal stem in part from exposure of the depravity of some priests’ conduct; but also from realization that members of the clergy and bishops—by their misfeasance or nonfeasance over the years—effectively tolerated and enabled the depravity and resultant harm.

Restorative

There was hurt and anger in the voices, but the anger was not mean-spirited and destructive. It was righteous and restorative—not unlike Jesus’ anger when he confronted the money-changers in the Temple: “My house shall be a house of prayer.”

There was even a growing recognition, during the meeting, that this venting, in the presence of the Bishop, was cathartic and healthy. Like the lancing of a boil, it seemed like a long-overdue essential step toward honest healing.  In fact, some even expressed gratitude for the AG’s Report.  Painful though it is to read, it had at least, and at last, prompted these Listening Sessions.

Hope

The Listening Session was for listening. I have no doubt that all of us gathered at Immaculate Conception Church, including the Bishop, listened. The 90 minutes were intense, even riveting. It was not a time for answers or solutions; just listening. Listening is good, an essential first step on the road to restoration . . . restoration of confidence in Church leadership . . . restoration of healthier cooperation between clergy and laity.

Of course, the process is far from complete. Accountability and wholeness still seem like distant goals. But this listening, this humble listening, seemed to create an opening to the Holy Spirit—the Spirit who convicts, and comforts, and encourages, and heals. I’m glad I attended the Listening Session. What I witnessed gives me hope. What comes of it remains to be seen, but I’m confident that our humble openness is something our Lord, the Divine Physician, can work with.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come quickly!