IN THIS TIME OF CRISIS, many parishes in the Albany Diocese have been showing support for their priests. St. Paul the Apostle in Hancock got the cards pictured above for Rev. Daniel Quinn, pastor, and passed them around the pews before Mass with a message from parishioner Cathy VanMater wrote: "Dear St. Paul Parishioner, during this very difficult time that the Church is experiencing, I thought it was important to let Father Dan know that we are not sitting here in the pews wondering or judging him or anyone else. It’s important that he let him know that we are here for him and that we support him, trust him, appreciate and love him, and that we will not abandon him or our Church, nor walk away from the sacraments or the Holy Eucharist — that which feeds and sustains us. We all see the empty seats in church lately; let's let him know he can count on us!"
IN THIS TIME OF CRISIS, many parishes in the Albany Diocese have been showing support for their priests. St. Paul the Apostle in Hancock got the cards pictured above for Rev. Daniel Quinn, pastor, and passed them around the pews before Mass with a message from parishioner Cathy VanMater wrote: "Dear St. Paul Parishioner, during this very difficult time that the Church is experiencing, I thought it was important to let Father Dan know that we are not sitting here in the pews wondering or judging him or anyone else. It’s important that he let him know that we are here for him and that we support him, trust him, appreciate and love him, and that we will not abandon him or our Church, nor walk away from the sacraments or the Holy Eucharist — that which feeds and sustains us. We all see the empty seats in church lately; let's let him know he can count on us!"

(Editor’s note: Deacon Sedlmeir delivered this homily Aug. 25-26 at St. Theresa’s parish in Windham in view of domestic violence and the clergy sexual abuse crisis.)

A reading from the letter to the Ephesians (Eph 5:21-32 or 2,25-32) wakes up a lot of people who aren’t paying attention. By today’s standards, it is politically incorrect. Maybe that’s why the shorter version skips the part that says women should be obedient to their husbands.

If we just hear words and not the context and culture they come out of, it’s like striking a match. We have to listen to what precedes and follows this seemingly inflammatory passage.

First, pay attention to the opening sentence of the reading: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That means all Christians, not only husbands and wives, should treat each other with great respect, because we are all part of the body of Christ.

Second, notice that wives should be subordinate to their husbands “as to the Lord.” This covers the danger of domestic violence, because the Lord would not under any circumstances harm or abuse anyone. In the case of abuse or violence, submission or obedience is not due the husband — or anyone else, for that matter.

Third, consider the part referring to how men should treat their wives: Men are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church. He loved the Church so much that He was willing to die for her.

The author also argues that, because the husband and wife are one, neither person in the relationship can afford to mistreat the other, just as an individual cannot afford to mistreat his or her own body. This means that neither person in the relationship will do anything to harm the other. Each will do whatever is necessary to help the other person grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. Each is willing to sacrifice for the other. In St. Paul’s day, this would have been a triumph for women.

In light of recent events regarding investigations into abuse by priests, I note that the letter to the Ephesians deals with respect within a family — and we are a family. When one member of our family hurts, we all hurt — and, ideally, we all do what we can to alleviate that hurt.

I can’t take away the pain and suffering of those who have been abused by priests, deacons or religious. But I’d like to focus on two phrases from Ephesians: “Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ;” and, “Be subordinate to one another as to the Lord.”

Reporting clergy or religious to civil or Church authorities is not easy. The spiritual, emotional and mental power religious leaders hold can be intimidating. But it must be done for the good of the body of Christ. Just as a cancer works from the inside out, so does the evil of abuse. It weakens the body of Christ and the Church. it harms the parish and greater Church family.

In the years that I have been associated with the Church and known many priests, deacons and religious, I have heard of only one instance of sexual impropriety (and that wasn’t with minors) and two instances of fiscal improprieties. In my experience, the vast majority of priests, deacons and religious are dedicated to God and to making His word known. I also know that the harm done by the few makes the spreading of God’s word more difficult for the others.

I welcome the New York State attorney general’s investigation into the Church in New York, but at the same time, it saddens me. I welcome the fact that it would bring the presence of evil out into the open. Evil cannot exist in the light of day. Often, evil presents itself as a good, and that makes it dangerous. An investigation may also bring some sort of peace to those who have been affected by abuse.

I am saddened because of the loss of trust in the Church which will be reflected in people turning away from God and from the Church.

We need to keep in mind that the Church is greater than any one priest, deacon or religious. The Church is the body of Christ, the people of God, which includes the laity as well as priests, deacons and religious.

The sacraments open the doors to God, regardless of the moral state of the celebrant. The sacraments work because of the powerful presence of God acting through the celebrant and the acceptance of God’s presence by the participants. We do not participate in the sacraments because of the celebrant; we participate in the sacraments because we become closer to God.

Ultimately, the surfacing of evil in the Church will cause all of us to reflect on the meaning of the Church, body of Christ and the sacraments. It will cause us to reflect on our relationship with God or lack thereof, on the responsibility we take on in the Church and on why we are Catholic.

We are a loving, imperfect and hurting family, but one that will stick together and come out more dedicated to Christ, His Church and one another.