Personal Letter from Bishop Kemme to the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita on abuse crisis
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I continue to reflect on the painful crisis we now face in the church, caused by the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by Archbishop McCarrick and in light of the recent grand jury report in the State of Pennsylvania, which details the unspeakable abuse caused by priests and the cover up of bishops over seven decades, I feel compelled to respond in a way that will bring forth for all entrusted with leadership in our wounded Church the graces we bishops need to restore the trust of our good people.
I have been reflecting on the Gospel text from Mark 9: 14 -29, which tells the story of how the disciples had been asked to expel a horrid and powerful demon which had taken possession of young boy. When the disciples couldn’t help the boy, they brought him to Jesus. The demon threw the boy into convulsions, and even into fire. Jesus rebuked the demon and it immediately left the boy, who was helped to his feet and restored to his family. When the disciples asked why they could not do it, Jesus said that this kind can only be expelled by prayer. We face a powerful and destructive demon at work the Church today, which has led some, who have been entrusted with the care of souls, priests and even bishops to abuse children and young adults. This abuse has scandalized so many in the church and it is time for this to end. We have and must continue to develop clear, transparent and effective policies and procedures to address this crisis; we must also rely on prayer; intense and frequent prayer. Prayer coupled with fasting will drive this demon out and restore the peace that we so long for in our Church. We who allowed this demon to wreak havoc in our hearts, the bishops, must also do penance and make reparation.
To that end, it is my intention to fast and pray on the First Friday of each month for the foreseeable future, perhaps for the remainder of my episcopal ministry. I intend to fast using the guidelines of the Good Friday fast and to spend my daily holy hour on that day in reparation for my sins and in particular for the sins and crimes of bishops, priests and religious who have abused minors and young adults in any way. While I would never be so bold as to expect others to adopt this practice, I would wholeheartedly welcome others to join me especially our priests and religious, if the Spirit of God so inspires them. Together, we can enlist ourselves as warriors in God’s army to combat this powerful and destructive demon of our times.
In addition to this pledge of prayer and fasting, I want to apologize with all my heart for the crimes and sins of the bishops. While I did not personally cause any of this damage, I share a deep pain of shame and guilt for the harm, damage and dismay all of this has caused, to the victims, to their families and to all in the Lord’s flock. In your charity, please pray for me, for our Holy Father and for all bishops, for now we need your prayers more than ever. God bless you all.
Your humble and most unworthy servant and bishop,
Bishop Carl A. Kemme