As Archbishop of Baltimore William E. Lori welcomed hundreds of teachers and principals back Thursday for the launch of a new school year, he spoke to the crisis facing the Catholic Church, saying it placed a “very heavy burden on your shoulders.”
During his homily at a Mass at the Catholic Schools Convocation, Lori said he was “very sorry” for the burden it placed on educators at dozens of schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
In the past several weeks, the Catholic Church has been shaken by the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed the abuse of more than 1,000 children by 300 priests going back over two decades, and the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, after allegations that he abused minors and seminarians over decades.
Then, in a letter released last weekend, an archbishop claimed Pope Francis had helped hide McCarrick’s abuse. The allegations have not been substantiated, but they unleashed a national discussion within the church.
The pope’s supporters charge that the allegations are in essence a battle over ideology and an attempt to undermine the current pope’s more liberal beliefs, including his more accepting stance toward homosexuals.
“All of this amounts to a tsunami of moral failure, a tsunami that has hurt many innocent victims and undermined the church’s credibility,” Lori said at the Church of the Nativity in Timonium, where the convocation was held. “People are bewildered and angry, both at the crimes committed against the innocent and at the failure of some bishops, especially in the past to effectively root out out this evil from the church and its ministries.”
He said Catholics are looking for concrete solutions and actions.
“While much is under way it takes some time for these things to come about, remembering there is a lot of hard work to do on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean,” Lori said.
He lauded the work the church schools have done to create safe environments for children.
“Thank you for your leadership and your cooperation with regards to all the measures that go in to creating the kind of schools that our parents can entrust their children to in confidence,” he said.
Lori will be holding three regional listening sessions for Catholic educators in which he said he would speak with them in greater detail. He said the work the educators are doing will help “reknit the broken bonds of trust.”
Archdiocesan schools have 25,000 children in 45 elementary and middle schools and 19 high schools throughout the region. While many of the schools enroll students who are not Catholic, the majority of the teachers are Catholic and a small percentage of the teachers are priests.
Funding for archdiocesan schools comes from a variety of sources, including tuition, the Archdiocese of Baltimore, parishes, private donors and school vouchers. More than 80 percent is funded through tuition and fees.
While many educators declined to comment on Lori’s remarks or the issues facing the church, Sister Irene Pryle, principal of Our Lady of Hope/St. Luke in Dundalk said no parents asked questions at a recent ice cream social.
“I think his remarks were very encouraging,” she said of Lori’s homily.