This week’s “From the Pastor” is written by the STM Parish Council
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the STM Parish Community,
Saint Thomas More Parish remains committed to addressing the leadership and abuse crises that have befallen our larger Church. After Archbishop Wilton Gregory declined to meet with STM parishioners in an open forum last September, we, the STM Parish Council, appealed to him to consider a more focused meeting with the Council. Archbishop Gregory agreed to this alternative and met with us on the evening of January 9, 2019.
Concerned that the Archbishop did not accept the invitation to meet with all interested parishioners, we took care to invite parishioners to help us prepare for his visit. The Leadership Crisis Action Committee (LCAC), a group of parishioners formed by the Parish Council in October 2018 to assist us in our high-priority mission to address the current situation in our Church, developed materials for the Council reflecting the work it has done over the past few months to understand parishioners’ hurts and desires on the issue. This included summarizing the LCAC’s activities and plans to-date; prayerfully considering the responses received through the parish-wide examen-style reflection, which took place over the week of Thanksgiving; and putting together a video montage to express to the Archbishop the range of feelings his flock holds in the face of the crisis.
Archbishop Gregory met with the Council for two hours. In addition to sharing your feelings with the Archbishop through discussion and through the video, we posed questions to him about what he has done, could do, and intends to do within the Atlanta archdiocese. We engaged in encouraging dialogue about the clericalism at the root of the current crisis; the necessity of transparency; and the need for broader leadership opportunities for laypeople.
The conversation was mutually respectful and the Archbishop gave us his full attention. Though there was agreement in the room on what precipitated the crisis and what would help to mitigate it, the Council and the Archbishop differed in our perspectives on what more the Archbishop could do. The Archbishop rightly pointed out that he had recently published the Archdiocese’s finances in the Georgia Bulletin; that laypeople have decision-making jurisdiction over those finances; that he has written about the crisis in the Georgia Bulletin both to express his dismay and to describe the efforts within the Archdiocese to name and deal with those credibly accused. He took the relatively few responses he received to these communications as indication that he has done what he can do, has communicated what he has done, and that his constituents are satisfied with the steps he has taken.
We, the STM Parish Council, believe that Archbishop Gregory can do more: more to communicate broadly and effectively his pain and sorrow in solidarity with his people; more to address the issue of clericalism; more to inculcate transparency, accountability and lay leadership in our Archdiocese; and more to listen deeply to his flock. In this spirit, the Council is preparing a response letter to the Archbishop to acknowledge the positive discussion, invite further exchange, and recommend areas where we envision that there is room for the Archbishop to take further action.
We are grateful for all who shared their prayerful thoughts and feelings through the examen reflection in November, and we also thank those of you who courageously volunteered to participate in the video prepared for the Archbishop. Both the examen responses and the video will continue inform the work of the Leadership Crisis Action Committee as it engages in planning for our parish and beyond for 2019. The LCAC is open to all who wish to participate (contact coordinator Monica LaBelle, firstname.lastname@example.org, for more information). It is the Council’s hope that neither the positive elements of our meeting with Archbishop Gregory nor the disappointing parts of the conversation will deter our commitment as a parish to seek meaningful change and to grow as a united faith community.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
St. Thomas More Parish Council
Steve Carney, Chris Harvey, Richard Joseph, Jim Logan, Patti Paulino, Anh Phillips, Steve Siler, Mary Swartz, and Maggie Whitcomb