PEP Newsletter

Ideas For Your Parish


June, 2018

No One Is Perfect

            Even the pope makes mistakes.  On April 12, 2018, The New York Times wrote, “Pope Francis has apologized for ‘grave errors’ in the handling of sexual abuse cases in Chile, where he had adamantly defended a bishop accused of covering up abuse by the country’s most notorious pedophile priest.”  The article went on to state, “A remorseful pope then invited representatives of the abuse victims to Rome so that he could personally apologize.”


Integrity and Honesty

            What a beautiful model of how to respond when you discover that you have made a mistake, whatever the issue.  He admitted his error and sought to apologize to those affected by his actions.  In addressing the victims, the pope affirmed, “I assure you of my prayers and I want to share with you the conviction that the present difficulties are also an occasion to re-establish the trust of the Church, broken by our mistakes and sins, and to heal wounds that haven’t stopped bleeding in Chilean society.”


Implications on the Local Level 

            This behavior of the pope acknowledging a fault soon after it was apparent that he misjudged the situation and apologizing to those harmed, even inviting them to Rome where he could do this in person, is a fitting example for any Church leader to emulate.  Each diocese has its own issues, each bishop his own way of operating, but one option might be to have a committee formulate procedures for what to do when mistakes are made that need immediate attention.


            The same could be true when this happens on a parish level.  Issues can arise that, if not dealt with, cause anger and resentment.  Suppose, for instance, a parish is raising money for a building campaign.  Parishioners are asked to make donations for various aspects of a new church, including pews, stations, organ, stained glass windows, to name a few.  A number of generous contributors respond and send in money.  The parishioners notice, however, that when the building is finished, there are no stained glass windows.  “What happened?” the contributors ask.  “Oh, there was not enough money to include all that we had planned,” admitted the pastor.  “We’ll put the new windows in later.”  He could leave it at that without offering any explanation or apology.  But remembering the model of the pope, the pastor and building committee could go in a different direction. 

  1. Admission: There must have been a moment when the pastor and those handling the finances discovered, “We have a problem.”  They made a miscalculation of how much the church building was going to cost.  The only way to finish the project was to put in regular glass windows, hoping that sometime in the future the stain glass windows could be installed. 
  2. Honesty: It is no good to hide the fact that for the present, there will be no ornate windows.  The money that people gave for the stained glass was used to pay for other parts of the building.  Speak the truth and don’t make excuses.  “We made a terrible mistake.”
  3. Amends: Just as the pope invited the victims of the abuse to Rome so he could apologize in person, so too the pastor and committee decide to plan a special gathering of the entire parish to announce, “We hear your anger.  We have broken your trust.  We apologize for our actions.”
  4. Ritual: A parish-wide service is arranged, perhaps in the new church, that points to the plain-glass windows as a symbol of an imperfect parish that is in need of healing and yet still reaches out to heal others, just like the pope.