I Was Blind But Now I See
[Singing] “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
There’s something about that song... It is the rare Christian who cannot identify with it. We are attracted to more than a nice melody. The words also find a resonance in each of our hearts.
Did you ever notice that the words come right out of today’s Gospel! The Gospel is about a blind person who comes to clear vision and seeing persons who turn out to be blind. This is what the formerly blind man says to the Pharisees, “I know this much: I was blind before; now I can see.” What is obvious to the formerly blind man is unseen by those who are supposed to recognize the truth revealed by God, the religious leaders of that time. Jesus clarifies for his listeners that it is not the blind who are sinners, but those who refuse to see.
It really marks a wonderful miracle of God --an “Amazing Grace”, if you will.
Here is a man blind from birth—a man who has been reduced to begging to get by. No doubt he had long ago lost hope that he would ever see. He did, however, have an advantage over the other group that suffered from blindness. He knew he was missing something! The Pharisees did not.... They didn’t understand that to have a relationship with God we will always have to be willing to face the hard truth about ourselves, to let go of what may be comfortable, to be changed.
Is it possible that God will be using this previously unimaginable situation that we are now passing through with this deadly virus in order to bring a new vision to us? In one of God’s great paradoxes the blindness that the man in the Gospel had experienced all his life became for him the path to new vision and new life in Christ. Had he not been blind he would not have been so ready to see.
I remember a youth retreat program that I took part in as a young priest. One of the highlights of the weekend was when we placed blindfolds upon the retreatants. At first, watching them carefully, we invited them to find their way around the room. Filled with the pride of youth they set out with a confidence that soon proved unfounded. They were totally disoriented. We had to save them from walking into walls and other obstacles. Then we asked someone, without speaking, to assist them. In a short time they came to trust the one who was guiding them and they began to even maneuver steps with relative ease. As we reflected with them after the experience we hoped they would come to understand that in this human condition there is some blindness in all of us. We need others! We need God!
How will our vision be changed by this experience of the pandemic? Will the recognition of our human frailty lead us to put our confidence less in human beings and more in the One who does not change or have an end? Will the fear we are experiencing lead us to a greater trust in the One who alone can calm our anxiety and console us? Will our sense of isolation lead us to set time aside so that we can connect more deeply with the God who is always with us? Will we come to understand more fully our interdependence upon one another?
The truth is that things could go either way. This experience could make us more like the blind man that received his sight or more like the Pharisees who simply used the encounter with the work of God to reinforce their blindness.
Let us pray that God will use this difficult and challenging time as only God can—to bring good out of evil. Be confident that Jesus, who heals our blindness, will be at work among us now more than ever. Trust that God will work through us who have sought to have our sight restored even more powerfully.
God chooses those like us who are weak because the weak are most likely to be able to recognize that without God’s help….they are blind.
Well here we are again in the midst of these 40 days of penance and prayer, sacrifice and fasting, giving up and almsgiving! We began on Ash Wednesday with the ashes that were placed on our foreheads signifying our repentance and the awareness that we are dust and to dust we will return.
By this time you may be wondering, as I often do, when it will be over. When will Holy Week run its course replacing the difficulty and drudgery of Lent with the alleluias of Easter?
If this is the way we are feeling about Lent we need to perform a Lenten makeover! Does Lent rightly include the elements of sacrifice and self-giving I alluded to earlier? Absolutely! But there is a surprise lurking underneath the ashes of this holy time. It is 40 days of amazing grace, 40 days of new vision and new self-understanding, 40 days of newly claimed power over the sins and the inertia that often dominate our lives! Lent invites us to enter into a new focus on that which truly matters and God's action in our lives. Lent reveals how God can transform us and make us clearer signs of His presence in the world.
Lent is like a spiritual powerhouse of diet and exercise that, over the course of 40 days, can put us in peak form set in place patterns that, God-willing, can free us and place us on a trajectory into the Kingdom of God.
The first Preface of the Mass for Lent says it better than I ever could:
"For by your gracious gift each year
your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts
with the joy of minds made pure,
so that, more eagerly intent on prayer
and on the works of charity,
and participating in the mysteries
by which they have been reborn,
they may be led to the fullness of grace
that you bestow on your sons and daughters."
Did you notice any reference to sorrow and sadness? With such great potential for blessing in our lives Lent should not be seen as a time of woe. Quite the contrary!
Let's get after it! Joy awaits!
We who live in El Paso often think of ourselves as living off in a forgotten corner of the world. We even wonder at times if our fellow Texans know that we are part of our State.
I have just returned from the city that you might call the Capital of the Catholic Church, the city of Rome. It is a long journey crossing 8 time zones. The trip is a Pilgrimage required for Bishops which takes place about every 8 years. The official short name is “Ad Limina Apostolorum”, a Latin title which translates, “To the Threshold of the Apostles”. We go as part of regions of the Church in the U.S. Our region is made up of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. We are made up of 18 Dioceses. 26 Bishops were part of our group. We are one of the largest regions in terms of the number of Dioceses that make us up.
The trip is intended primarily as a spiritual journey to strengthen the connections with our roots as a Church and particularly to strengthen our mission as Bishops to continue the work that Jesus first entrusted to the Apostles to preach, teach and baptize in his name. To do this we go to the place where the two primary foundation stones upon which Jesus built his Church, St.s Peter and Paul, gave the ultimate witness.
We concretize our closeness to that foundation by praying and celebrating Mass together at the four major Basilica churches of Rome: St. John Lateran, which is the Pope’s Cathedral; St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the place where St. Peter is buried; St. Paul’s Outside the Walls; where St. Paul is buried; and St. Mary Major, the earliest Church in Rome that was dedicated to Mary.
Of course, an unforgettable highlight of the trip is the audience with the Successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis. Even a brief encounter with him would have been a memorable treat. Jesus promised that through the ministry of Peter and his successors the Church would always have the assurance of the Holy Spirit to guide her and keep her faithful. The Pope represents the unity that all the Bishops have as they carry on the work of Christ. Through them the whole Church, despite the weakness and sinfulness of all the members, has the promise that Christ will be present and at work until the end of time.
Well, at our audience the Pope didn’t limit himself to only a meet and greet. After graciously greeting and speaking to a group of priests and seminarians who joined us, he sat down and visited with us for more than 2½ hours! There were no formal presentations. Each Bishop had presented an in depth report on the life of the Church in our dioceses some six months ago. The Holy Father just invited us to raise to him anything we wished to inform him about or to ask. We had a far ranging discussion of trends that we see in our region and in the Church as a whole. The Pope shared concerns and priorities of his.
One thing that came across clearly, and this may sound strange, is how deeply Catholic he is! Have you ever heard the rejoinder,”Is the Pope Catholic?”, when a person is wondering if something is true, Well, in this time of turmoil and disappointment and rejection of practically every institution, I am happy to reassure you that the answer to the question about the Pope is, “YES”! Yes, he is Catholic to the core of his being!
Listening to him speak his deep love of Christ, his utter fidelity to Christ’s teaching whether those teachings be in season or out, and his profound desire to follow the voice of the Holy Spirit came through loud and clear. What I think is difficult for many who are influenced by the secular spirit of our age is that a man such as this, so trusting in the power of the Spirit, is not afraid to open the door to a discussion of difficult questions. It is not a matter of having a prior agenda. It is a search for answers that often lie beyond what we feeble humans can conceive. Don’t worry, the Church has a good captain at the helm!
The Pope had a couple real surprises in store for me personally in our encounter. When Fr. Ben Flores, the Pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish and our Vicar General, and I introduced ourselves to him he looked at me and exclaimed, “¡Este es el obispo de mucha fama!” “This is the very famous Bishop!” Apparently he had heard about our challenges here on the border and recognized me as the Bishop of this place. I received his greeting as a word of encouragement to all of our community for the powerful witness we have given in our welcome of people in need at our border in fidelity to the Gospel.
Later in our conversation with the Holy Father as a group I took the opportunity to remind him of the events that took place in El Paso on August 3rd. I told him that a man filled with hate had come from far away with the desire to shoot as many people of Mexican origin and immigrants as he could. I explained that 22 were killed and another 26 were wounded. I specifically mentioned Willie (Memo) Garcia who continues to fight for his life in Intensive Care.
My request of the Pope was that he would send me back to my Diocese with assurances of his blessings and prayers, especially for the victims and their families. I expected him to simply give me that assurance. Instead he asked me, “”How many rosaries would you like?” I was shocked by the question and unsure of how to answer. How many could I ask of the Holy Father? I blurted out, “20”. He summoned an aide and whispered to him some instructions. Soon a large white bag was brought in to the Pope. It was the rosaries!
At the conclusion of our audience, Pope Francis beckoned me to come forward and handed me a bag heavy with rosaries. Not 20, but 50! I can hardly wait to offer these signs of the Holy Father’s closeness and blessings to the families of those whose lives were so drastically changed on that awful day!
Yes, at times we in El Paso and all of west Texas may feel as though we are in a forgotten and unappreciated corner of the world. Some people may not give us our due. However that may be, that is not the case with the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis! We are very much in his heart.
It’s good to be home!
As a Catholic and Christian leader on the border, I am often called to be a doctor of the soul. Standing here at the US-Mexico border, how do we begin to diagnose the soul of our country?
A government and society which view fleeing children and families as threats; a government which treats children in US custody worse than animals; a government and society who turn their backs on pregnant mothers, babies and families and make them wait in Ciudad Juarez without a thought to the crushing consequences on this challenged city . . . This government and this society are not well. We suffer from a life-threatening case of hardening of the heart.
In a day when we prefer to think that prejudice and intolerance are problems of the past, we have found a new acceptable group to treat as less than human, to look down upon and to fear. And should they speak another language or are brown or black . . . well, it is that much more easy to stigmatize them.
Why can’t we put ourselves in their shoes? Because we have decided they are not our neighbors, we have decided that they are aliens and illegals. We think these parents simply have no right to save their children from violence or malnutrition. They have no right to a job or to support their families. They have no right to reunite with family.
For this heart-sick government and society, these people should have stayed home, given into hopelessness and watched helplessly as their children suffer. Would we rather they die on the banks of the Rio Grande than trouble us with their presence?
But we have not suffered the mistreatment meted out to them by those who represent our country. We haven’t really felt their hunger and cold. And it is not our children who will be denied food, water and tenderness tonight.
We Americans need our hearts checked. Our hearts have grown too cold and too hard and that bodes ill for the health of our nation.
In the America of today, is there no more Golden Rule? Have we forgotten the lessons of Scripture? Have we forgotten the commandment to love? Have we forgotten God?
But here on the border, he knocks. In the struggle for hope and freedom and family, he knocks. In the lives of Jackleyn and Felipe and Oscar and Valeria, he knocks. In our neighbors here today, he knocks. He knocks. He knocks. He knocks.
No Fire Can Destroy the Risen Body of Christ!
Easter Vigil Homily, 2019
What was it that impacted us so powerfully when we learned that the Cathedral of Notre Dame was on fire? I had never even been there, but it was as though someone had told me my house was on fire. I remember when, a good number of years ago now, a member of my family told me that the house in which I grew up was on fire. My family had moved out a number of years prior. The property had to be cleared so apartments could be built. Local firemen decided to burn the old farmhouse for practice. It still hit me right in the gut. This was the place that housed part of my childhood. It held my memories. In some way it was part of my identity going up in flames!
I suspect that might be at least part of what we were feeling as we heard this news. To some extent we all, whether Catholic or not, believers or not, saw this as part of our identity, our heritage. If it had been instead the Eifel Tower or Parliament in England or even the US Capital we would have felt the loss. But this was a church, a Catholic church. It lies in the center of Paris, one of the world’s great cities and had served as the beating heart of that city for more than 850 years.
No other building could have served the same purpose and done it so well because this church speaks to the history, the meaning and identity of the French people in a way that transcends any other factor that could tell them about themselves. Even for those who attempted to put their identity aside and go off on their own as people without a living faith it served as a tenuous but important cord that spoke to them of home. The French, and really all of us, are in many ways like toddlers who feel brave to wander away from the grasp of mom but who become fearful if she is out of sight.
I suspect we have all had moments like this in our life of Faith. Some of us have wandered, searching for a home that we have somehow longed for without even being able to put a finger upon what it was for which we were hungering. Some of us grew up knowing where home was but we nevertheless struck out on our own like the Prodigal Son, thinking there must be something even better over the next hill. We set out on our own only to soon discover that we were lost.
Tonight we have gathered in our beautiful Cathedral. We have gathered with our Catechumen Elect who will find themselves on this night in the home they now realize is the place, the Faith, they have searched for, longed for. We who are already Baptized, fully initiated members of the Church, have come together with them to celebrate the event in our history that brings meaning and identity to every aspect of our lives, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We rejoice to welcome those who will also be adopted into the family of God.
We have heard through the Scriptures in summary form how God created us and formed a People whom he called His own. We listened as we recognized his merciful love revealed to us through the ages. Our hearts have filled with joy once again as we sing our Alleluias, praising God for His victory over sin and death and we rejoice to know that His victory is ours as well.
Yes, brothers and sisters, we are home! Our home is no passing building of bricks and wood, but the very Body of Christ, made up of feeble sinful members like ourselves, but which at the same time is the holy and undying Body of the Risen One, who lives and reigns forever and ever! AMEN! ALLELUIA!
Bp. Mark J. Seitz
April 20, 2019
You got it, Peter! You really understood! The first reading said it well, “For the age that is honorable comes not with the passing of time, nor can it be measured in terms of years.”
If someone had asked you who you were imitating, who you were like, you probably would nothave said, “Jesus Christ”; but somehow, thanks in part to your family and your upbringing, thanks to the goodness God placed in you--you got it! Even from the time you were a young child, I am told, you wanted to be a man in uniform, you wanted to serve.
Many today don’t even ask the question. Many just ask, “What would bring me pleasure?” “What can I get?” They don’t ask, “What can I give?” “How can I make a difference?” “How can I make others safe?”
I won’t suggest you were perfect. I don’t think any of us are. But you were clearly a person on the right track. As we look back on your life we can see many ways in which you remind us of Christ. That, I think is why your wife, Ashley and your sister, Melissa, chose the Gospel passage we know as the Beatitudes. They represent the most concise summary of what it means to be a follower of Christ. As such the Beatitudes also serve as a description of Christ himself who is our living model of a person who is faithful to God.
We heard Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek.” You were meekin the sense of the humility necessary to poke fun at yourself to bring a smile to the face of your family and friends. You served your family and did your work quietly without seeking to call attention to yourself.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” You certainly hungered and thirsted for righteousness, for justice. You wanted to protect the innocent and get the guilty off the streets.
“Blessed are the peacemakers.” You were a peacemaker, trying to resolve disputes and calm situations.
And, yes, you were “persecuted for the sake of righteousness.” The brutal and unprovoked attack you endured is not unlike that suffered by the Lord Jesus in whom you trusted. Jesus is the One who is completely righteous, completely innocent, and he was brutally beaten, nails were pounded through his hands and feet and he was hung upon a cross to die.
Yes, Peter, you might not have claimed it, but you became in so many ways like our Savior. He is a Savior who also said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” You did that for our entire community which you loved.
For this reason we will trust Jesus now. We will put you gently into his loving arms to hold you up and guide you safely to your heavenly home.
And we will also assure you, Peter, that we will as a community come together and care for your family: for Ashley, your wife and Natalie, your daughter, for your Dad, Luis, and your Mom, Esther, for your brother, Louieand your sister, Melissa. We will be there for all your relatives, for your friends and for your brothers in law enforcement as they carry on the courageous work you did so well. As we heard in the Gospel all these are also called “Blessed”because they are very poor in spiritright now due to your passing. They are the “Blessed”who mournnow and this whole El Paso community with them.
We will all be strengthened by the Faith that as Christ has promised we hope to see you again one day when having completed ourjourney through life we will share good times together in a place where justice and righteousness will reign, where pain and separation will be no more, where the Blessedwill gather, in the never-ending banquet of heaven.
Bp. Mark J. Seitz Bautismo del Señor - C – Semana Nacional del Migrante 2019
13 de enero, 2019 Catedral de San Patricio
Lema: “Construyendo Comunidades de Bienvenida”
“Él los bautizará con el Espíritu Santo y con fuego". ¡El Bautismo es poderoso! ¡Cambia todo! Para Jesus su bautismo marcó el comienzo de su misión, el momento cuando el Espíritu Santo abrió el nuevo y último capítulo de su vida que impulsó su vida por el tiempo de su ministerio, hasta el tiempo de su pasión y muerte y últimamente a su resurrección.
Para nosotros el Bautismo marca el momento de una transformación de una creatura de la tierra hacia una creatura del cielo, un hijo adoptivo de Dios y un hermano verdadero de Cristo, nuestro Salvador. Para Cristo marca una transición, para nosotros, una transformación.
Lastimosamente, muchas veces no podemos ver los efectos del Bautismo en nuestras vidas. Con la presencia del Espíritu Santo en nuestra vida debemos llegar a un punto cuando vemos todas las cosas de la vida por los ojos de Cristo, en la manera de Cristo. Como Cristo debemos entender que todos, y particularmente los más pobres y marginados, son nuestros hermanos y hermanas, miembros de la familia de Dios. Debemos llegar al punto cuando entendemos que estamos viviendo no para el momento que pasa, sino para hacer de esta vida un camino hacia el Reino de Dios. Con la presencia del Espíritu Santo debemos entender que no dependemos solamente en nuestros recursos materiales o habilidades. Dios puede proveer lo que necesitamos si estamos siguiendo su voluntad.
Con la gracia del Señor podemos elevar todas las valles y rebajar todos los montes. ¿Que no puede hacer el poder de su amor?
Esta semana estamos celebrando La Semana Nacional de la Migración. Y en la luz de esta Fiesta del Bautismo del Señor creo que podemos descubrir una perspectiva totalmente diferente para evaluar las cuestiones de la recepción de migrantes y refugiados. Por eso, el lema de este año es, “Construyendo Comunidades de Bienvenida”. La hospitalidad hacia los que llegan a nuestras comunidades buscando un lugar de seguridad para ellos y sus familias es una característica natural para los que viven en el Espíritu de nuestro bautismo. Esta es una cualidad fundamental de los seguidores de Él que nos amó cuando éramos forasteros de Dios por nuestros pecados.
En verdad este esfuerzo para construir comunidades de bienvenida es una virtud que es necesario para cualquier sociedad justa y exitosa. Porque aunque cada grupo necesita su identidad cultural y religiosa, si no tiene una actitud abierta a recibir y ayudar a los otros va a tener una sociedad fracturada y dividida, una comunidad donde no pueden establecer el buen común, donde no pueden trabajar juntos para el bien de todos.
Viviendo como los hijos de Dios que somos por nuestro bautismo entonces no es solamente para ayudarnos a llegar a la meta de la vida en el reino de Dios, es también el fondo necesario si queremos construir una sociedad justo y bueno en esta vida. Con la ayuda del Espíritu de Dios podemos ver el que ha venido de un otro lugar, no como una amenaza, sino como un hermano o una hermana que hasta ahora no teníamos la oportunidad a conocer. Podemos ver el forastero como una persona llena de potencial y de los regalos de Dios.
¡Sí! Todos nosotros somos, antes y después de nuestro bautismo, pecadores. Pero cuando amamos como Cristo, servimos con Cristo, hacemos la voluntad de nuestro Padre Celestial, como Cristo, tenemos también la confianza que Dios puede protegernos, Dios puede proveer lo que necesitamos, y Dios va a bendecir nuestros esfuerzos para servir los inmigrantes.
El Padre va a decir con orgullo acerca de nosotros lo que dijo acerca de su hijo, “¡Tú eres mi Hijo, mi hija; en ti me complazco!”
During a recent priest assembly in our diocese I promised to propose actions that I would like us as a Diocesan Church to take up beginning immediately to guide our local response to the scandals surrounding the sexual abuse of children by priests and bishops and the subsequent failure to respond appropriately by some bishops.
Certainly programs and protocols will be important and I refer to some of those here, but as always our most potent weapon against evil is prayer and the deeper conversion of our own hearts. That is the primary goal of many of these actions.
With the help of prayer and penance we can also move forward our efforts to become more transparent signs of the presence of the Lord in our midst. These efforts will complement our work locally to improve our assistance for victims, to create a safer environment for all our members and to provide better protocols for the reporting of abuse by any member of the clergy, including bishops.
I would like to share with you the People of God of the Diocese of El Paso these actions that I am asking the entire Church of El Paso to undertake:
1. Fasting on Fridays for the healing of victims of abuse (exception could be made for feasts that fall on Friday, Christmas and Easter)
2. A Rosary should be said in every parish at least once a week for victims of abuse. Priests and deacons should lead or participate unless otherwise prevented by their schedule.
3. A petition for the victims of sexual abuse in the Church should be included in every Sunday Liturgy.
4. Each parish should recommit itself to the full implementation of VIRTUS Safe Environment Program.
5. Parish communities are encouraged to plan other prayer actions along these lines such as holy hours, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, novenas or the like.
6. Every priest and deacon should see this as a call to strengthen his own personal prayer life so that he can remain faithful to his calling and be a more transparent sign of God’s presence.
I will appreciate your support at the parish and diocesan level as individuals and through the various Church-based organizations to which you belong to assist us in implementing these actions and even challenging us to go beyond them in the service of God and His people.
Please pray for me and for all our priests and deacons, as well as all those called to leadership in the Church.
Durante una asamblea sacerdotal reciente en nuestra diócesis, prometí proponer acciones que me gustaría que comencemos a hacer inmediatamente como Iglesia Diocesana. Esto para guiar a nuestra respuesta local en cuanto a los escándalos que rodean el abuso sexual de niños por parte de sacerdotes y obispos, además del subsecuente fracaso en responder apropiadamente por parte de algunos obispos. Ciertamente, los programas y protocolos serán importantes y me refiero a algunos de ellos aquí, pero como siempre, nuestra arma más poderosa contra el mal es la oración y la conversión más profunda de nuestros propios corazones. Ese es el objetivo principal de muchas de estas acciones.
Con la ayuda de la oración y la penitencia, también podemos avanzar en nuestros esfuerzos para convertirnos en signos más transparentes de la presencia del Señor en medio de nosotros. Estos esfuerzos complementarán nuestro trabajo a nivel local para mejorar nuestra asistencia a las víctimas, crear un entorno más seguro para todos nuestros miembros y proporcionar mejores protocolos para denunciar el abuso por parte de cualquier miembro del clero, incluidos los obispos.
Me gustaría compartir con ustedes, el Pueblo de Dios de la Diócesis de El Paso, estas acciones, las cuales le pido a toda la Iglesia de El Paso que emprenda:
1. Ayunar los viernes para la curación de las víctimas de abuso (las excepciones podrían hacerse para los días festivos que caen los viernes, Navidad y Pascua)
2. Se debe decir un rosario en cada parroquia al menos una vez por semana para las víctimas del abuso. Los sacerdotes y diáconos deben dirigir o participar, a menos que su horario lo impida.
3. Debe incluirse una petición para las víctimas de abuso sexual en la Iglesia, en cada liturgia dominical.
4. Cada parroquia debe volver a comprometerse con la implementación completa del Programa de Ambiente Seguro, VIRTUS.
5. Se alienta a todas las comunidades parroquiales a que planifiquen otras acciones de oración a lo largo de estas líneas, tales como horas santas, visitas al Santísimo Sacramento, novenas o similares.
6. Todo sacerdote y diácono debe ver esto como un llamado a fortalecer su propia vida de oración para que pueda permanecer fiel a su llamado y ser un signo más transparente de la presencia de Dios.
Apreciaré enormemente su apoyo a nivel parroquial y diocesano como individuos y a través de las diversas organizaciones eclesiales a las que pertenecen para ayudarnos a implementar estas acciones e incluso, desafiarnos a ir más allá de ellas en el servicio de Dios y su pueblo.
Por favor, oren por mí y por todos nuestros sacerdotes y diáconos, así como por todos los llamados al liderazgo en la Iglesia.
¡Dios les Bendiga!
He estado luchando con la pregunta de qué decir sobre el último conjunto de escándalos de abuso que se publicaron en las últimas semanas. Una de las razones de mi lucha, es que estoy lidiando con mis sentimientos de traición y desilusión, de que cosas así puedan pasar en esta Iglesia que tanto amo. La otra, es que sé que estas continuas revelaciones dañan la confianza que usted ha depositado en todos los líderes de la Iglesia.
El tema del abuso sexual en la Iglesia ha sido como una nube oscura que pende sobre la Iglesia, durante la mayoría de los años en que he sido sacerdote. Durante mis años en el seminario, permanecí inconsciente de que la actuación sexual de cualquier tipo, podía invadir el santuario sagrado de nuestro seminario. En los años posteriores a mi ordenación, me enteré de que un compañero seminarista, Rudy Kos, se convirtió en uno de los abusadores de niños más notorios en su tiempo como sacerdote.
En mi Diócesis de Dallas aprendí cómo una postura incrédula y defensiva por parte de los líderes podría permitir que situaciones como estas continuaran. También tuve la oportunidad de conocer a algunas víctimas de abuso. En un caso, tuve el honor de caminar con ella durante muchos años y de buscar con ella una respuesta justa de parte de las autoridades diocesanas.
Desde aquel entonces, he orado diariamente y he ayunado semanalmente en beneficio de las víctimas de abuso. El dolor de las víctimas de abuso, especialmente el abuso por alguien que representa a Dios en la Iglesia, me ha conmovido enormemente. Muchos luchan por el resto de sus vidas con sentimientos de no ser amados, como si fueran solo un objeto para ser utilizados. Su dolor nunca desaparece por completo y su dificultad para relacionarse con Dios y confiar en alguien en la Iglesia es una lucha de por vida.
Al llegar a El Paso, hace cinco años, descubrí que estábamos tratando o ya habíamos resuelto un número de casos que involucraban depredadores de niños. Ninguno de ellos era reciente y muchos ya no eran elegibles para enjuiciamiento. A medida que se conocieron los casos, buscamos identificar a las víctimas y ofrecerles la asistencia que pudiéramos. Nos aseguramos de que existiera una política de cero tolerancias y de que nadie que haya sido acusado de manera creíble, tuviese permiso para participar nuevamente en el ministerio.
En nuestra diócesis, se nos ha ayudado enormemente por el trabajo de nuestra experta Coordinadora de Asistencia a Víctimas, Susan Martínez. Ella trabaja junto con nuestra Junta de Revisión Pastoral como miembro del Comité de Respuesta Pastoral, compuesto principalmente por terapeutas laicos quienes evalúan el reclamo y hacen recomendaciones sobre cómo la diócesis puede ayudar a la víctima, así como qué se debe hacer con el perpetrador. Ella alienta a la víctima para que informe a las autoridades. Si la víctima es menor de edad, ella reporta a las autoridades apropiadas. Susan también ha dispuesto para que me reúna con varias víctimas, cuando lo piden. Esta ha sido una experiencia muy desgarradora y conmovedora para mí.
La mayoría de los casos de los que nos enteramos sucedieron hace mucho tiempo, pero siempre buscamos identificar a otras posibles víctimas. Recientemente hubo un caso creíble de abuso por parte de un sacerdote, Miguel Luna, el cual nos llamó mucho la atención. Él había sido removido del ministerio activo algunos años antes, debido a las preocupaciones que teníamos sobre su comportamiento, aunque ninguna víctima se había presentado. Cuando dos valientes mujeres se presentaron, anunciamos en todas nuestras parroquias y también anunciamos lo que aprendimos en los medios. De esta manera, pudimos advertir a cualquier nueva víctima potencial e invitar a otras a presentarse. Como resultado, una tercera víctima se presentó. El estatuto de limitaciones no había pasado para el caso de la tercera víctima, por lo que Miguel Luna actualmente está siendo procesado.
Otro paso importante que hemos dado, es nuestro compromiso de crear un programa de capacitación ambiental seguro para llegar a todos los niños, el personal diocesano, parroquial y los voluntarios activos en la Iglesia. Se le conoce como VIRTUS y lleva a cabo verificaciones de antecedentes penales de todos los voluntarios y el personal, además de enseñar a niños y adultos, de una manera apropiada para la edad, cómo reconocer los signos de un posible abusador. En los últimos años, hemos entrenado a miles. Esperamos que proporcionemos las herramientas, no solo para proteger a nuestras parroquias de la presencia de depredadores de niños, sino también crearemos hogares y escuelas más seguros, donde ocurren la mayoría de los abusos.
Confío que a nivel nacional, la Iglesia continuará buscando mejores formas de garantizar que ninguna persona, sin importar su rango, esté por encima de la ley. Mientras tanto, aquí en casa, continuaremos haciendo todo lo que esté en nuestro poder para recuperar la confianza que usted tiene derecho a esperar de los líderes en la Iglesia.
Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz