This letter was originally included in the August 19th, 2018 St Jude bulletin
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Ordinarily, any bulletin column I write is sent to press a week before printing, which makes it difficult to address sensitive subjects quickly, but in light of the horrific news released this week, I asked the St. Jude staff to stuff the bulletin as a way to address everyone in the parish.
I can’t express in words my sadness at what I have learned from the Pennsylvania Grand Jury. In all honesty, I can’t even stand to read it, because I am so sickened by the conduct of so many clergy, both priests and bishops alike. I am saddened, deeply ashamed, and also deeply angered. In years past, I did not think it necessary to express what I believe to be the most basic among my responsibilities to you and to Christ. Now, because of such far reaching scandal, I no longer expect you to take this for granted.
Therefore, let me state this publicly: I pledge myself to defend the safety, well-being, and peace of mind of anyone who participates in any activity at St. Jude parish, or the wider events offered by our Diocese. I take with utmost seriousness our parish’s compliance with the Diocesan child protection policy. I insist that all parish employees and volunteers who work with children are trained to provide a safe environment for young people, that they fully understand their responsibility to report suspicions of abuse, and that they have completed a criminal background check. I promise to listen to any victim of sexual abuse, whether by clergy or by church personnel, regardless of where or when the event took place, and I promise that any and all information regarding such crimes reported to me will be communicated both to Diocesan and civil authorities. Furthermore, allow me to state categorically that in over twenty years of service as a priest, I have no knowledge whatsoever of any sexual abuse ever by anyone at any parish or school in which I have ever served. If I ever learn of any such abuse, even years after the fact, I will report it without hesitation.
In addition to my own personal commitment, I invite all of you to similarly pledge yourselves to the protection of the vulnerable among us. Even those who are not employees or volunteers who work with children must be vigilant. Do not dismiss or blame victims for coming forward. They are not hurting the church. They have been hurt by the church, and their coming forward is precisely what is needed for our church to be purified of this evil.
In addition, since public crimes require public penance, St. Jude will begin to offer a Mass each month for the victims of abuse and in reparation for the sins committed by clergy. Please do not take offense when you hear this Mass intention announced. It is part of our ongoing effort to keep vigilant, accountable, and prayerful.
Lastly, I wish to encourage all of you to keep your minds and hearts fixed on Christ, especially as he climbed the hill of Calvary to be crucified. To all human appearances, the power of evil had won the day, but God in his providence knew that even out of the darkest evil, he would bring a greater good. The resurrection of Christ is his pledge to us all that he will never allow sin and evil to have the last word. God bless you and St. Jude, pray for us!
Fr. James C. Hudgins