Laity for Moral Reform in the Catholic Church

Gospel reflection for April 24, 2021

Posted: 2021-04-23

On April 13, after a request from the Holy Father, Bishop Michael Hoeppner resigned from his episcopal seet of Crookston, Minnesota.

According to The Pillar, “the investigation into Hoeppner began with a charge that in 2015 he coerced Vasek, then studying to become a deacon in the diocese, to recant a claim that when he was a teenager, a Crookston priest molested him,” as well “from reports that he had at times failed to observe applicable norms when presented with allegations of sexual abuse involving clergy of the Diocese of Crookston.” Vasek would later not be ordained after Hoeppner “decided not to proceed” with the planned ordination to the diaconate.

In an appearing tone-deaf move, His Excellency gave a homily in a farewell mass, calling his ministry “a real joy and treat,” but according to reports, did not make mention of the failures and wrongdoings of his episcopal governance, nor did he ask for forgiveness.

In a recent post on Catholic Twitter, Fr. Ryan Hilderbrand brought light on the situation, suggesting the bishop should have had a mass of repentance instead as well as publicly apologizing on his knees - a practice the St. Peter Damian Society would endorse for many of the hierarchy today.

One reply to the post summarizes succinctly the entire frustration that encapsulates the mission of the Society: “One of the sad things to me: even a sincere act of contrition cannot occur here, as it would be stricken down by the liability counsel. Just another reason he should have ridden off into the sunset without the show.

The response to the abuse crisis has not been Catholic enough. The response has been one of bureaucrats and lawyers worried about settlements, lawsuits, and corporate gobbdly-gook feel-good speech and not one of true repentance and contrition.

While not weighing in specifically on the Crookston bishop’s case, this week’s Gospel message reminds us of Who we should place our trust in.

“I AM the good shepherd,” Christ says in John 10:11. “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

Today, we are governed seemingly by many hirelings. At the sight of coming lawsuits or bad press, the hirelings today flee or cover up abuse. They do not confront the evils of clerical sex abuse and the breaking of vows head on. It appears they care more about the privileges and benefits of the office of the episcopate instead of ensuring the faithful have authentic, Christ-like pastors. Why one would cover up clerical sex abuse is an unknown to reasonable, normal people. But it does not make the laity feel like the hierarchy cares about them, their children, and the reputation of their Church.

This week, let us remember not to place our trust in mere men. Let us make satisfaction and penance as best we can and remember, in spite of the abject failure of the hirelings, the Good Shepherd still watches over us and the flock and has already laid down His life for us.