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February 21, 2019

Dear Friends,

Not long ago, someone remarked to me about how difficult it is to be Catholic these days. An understatement, I thought. It seems that scarcely a day goes by that we are not greeted (assaulted would be the better word) by some new and shocking revelation that relates to one aspect or another of the sexual abuse scandal that, for far too long, has been rocking the church—not just in this country, not just in the developed countries of the world, but seemingly everywhere.

We are scandalized, disgusted, and weary beyond words. Our hearts ache for the thousands of victims who carry heavy burdens through their lives. And while I can’t speak for all of us, I am quite sure that most of us who follow the news—and who relate day after day to friends, neighbors, and co-workers (and, often enough, to family members who no longer consider themselves Catholic)—are finding it increasingly difficult to explain why we continue to identify as Catholic, why we continue to practice our faith.

I wish I could provide comfort for you at a profoundly difficult time. I wish I could provide answers to the questions you are struggling with. I wish I could reassure you that the worst is over and that things will quiet down soon. I cannot. All I can do is offer a few considerations that may help provide some context and some nuance—both of which, when it comes to news reports, seem to be in short supply.

First, the church, despite all its egregious sins and failings, its fatal compromises and its deceptions, will weather this storm and, with the grace of God, become a stronger, more credible, more effective instrument for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. I believe this with all my heart. For this to happen, however, our bishops must prayerfully listen to God’s Spirit, humbly hear the cries of God’s people, and resolutely take bold and deliberate steps to root out of the church every discernible trace of abuse, cover-up, dishonesty, self-deception, and hypocrisy. Only in this way will a dispirited and deeply wounded church be able to move forward and carry out its sacred mission.

Not every representation in the secular media regarding these issues can be taken as gospel. Don’t get me wrong: I am not accusing the secular media of ill will or deliberate misrepresentation, but we shouldn’t expect secular news sources to have a carefully nuanced understanding of the church, its life, its history, its theology, or its canons. I also think it’s true to say that the church has not always helped the situation: too often it has been far from forthcoming with clear, complete, transparent, and unbiased information.

Despite what we often hear in news stories, it is not true to say or to imply that the United States Bishops have not taken serious and significant steps to deal with the abuse crisis. That they have been slow in doing so is unarguable, that they have been uneven in their response is also beyond dispute, but since 2002 when they adopted the so-called Dallas Charter, the bishops have taken major steps not only to address the sad history of the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults in the church, but also to put into place a set of policies and protocols to prevent its ever happening again. So, even last summer’s revelations of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, lurid and shocking as they were, should be seen as reports on criminal activity that took place prior to 2002—and much of it fifty or more years ago. This will bring no comfort to victims, and it certainly does not in any way excuse past crimes and misdeeds, but it provides nuance and acknowledges facts that were largely overlooked in much, if not all, of the reporting. And so, while it is true that before 2002 most, if not all, bishops made serious errors (sometimes on the basis of flawed advice from mental health and treatment professionals), it is not fair to overlook the major changes in policy and practice that have been adopted and implemented, nor is it fair to characterize all bishops as turning a blind eye, ignoring victims and their families, protecting offenders, and guarding the church’s reputation at all costs.

The learning curve for dealing with these issues has been long and slow— too long and too slow. But the same can be said for society in general, including families, youth organizations, and other churches and institutions, both public and private. Put simply, society understands these issues much better now than it did decades ago: for us in the church it means that we have come to realize that the sexual abuse of children is not just a grave sin, but also a serious crime, and that it is, in almost every case, treatable but not curable. Some bishops awakened to these realities rather quickly and took them to heart decades ago; others, sadly, were slow to act.

The church is global. The church exists in countries around the world where cultural differences are well beyond our experience or comprehension. For that reason it shouldn’t be too surprising that issues of sexual abuse and cover-up are not the same everywhere and that only today are we beginning to hear stories coming out of places like Africa and India. In spite of all our cultural differences, however, the church must adopt enlightened—and, as far as possible—unified approaches for dealing with these issues. The current meeting in Rome is an important step in that direction but only a step, and three days of dialogue, reflection, and meeting with victims can hardly be expected to heal this longfestering wound. If, during the meeting, the most important issues are identified, mistakes owned and repented, and a comprehensive course of action adopted, that is probably as much as we should expect. For now.

The debate within the church at the present time regarding the causes underlying sexual abuse is an extremely important one involving very complex issues. Some would narrow it all down to mandatory celibacy for priests, others want to blame gays within the priesthood, others the general sexual permissiveness within our culture, and still others the clerical culture within the church that places priests on a pedestal and gives them an inordinate amount of power. I think it is safe to say that, despite claims made by representatives of various ideological factions within the church, the jury is still out when it comes to identifying all the causes. My prayer is that this week’s meeting of bishops with Pope Francis—who is committed to finding solutions and has been very candid about admitting his own mistakes—will begin a frank discussion of the causes, and open the way to necessary changes and reforms, no matter how sweeping. I also hope that those bishops who have made quite clear their opposition to Pope Francis and his leadership, will set aside polemics and divisiveness and work together with him to find lasting solutions to the crisis we are facing.

Let me close with this thought. We will do well to keep in mind that the church has dealt with grave crises and scandals many times throughout its long history and, thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the courageous witness of saints beyond number, the church has been deepened, purified, and energized. And I would add that none of the evils we are dealing with—no matter how grave—is able to undo the immense amount of good that the church, the holy yet sinful People of God, accomplishes every day in our parishes, ministries, and institutions here and around the world. We in this parish are witnesses to this every day—in fact, we are part of it. All of which puts me in mind of a recent editorial in America magazine, by its editor, Father Matt Malone. He writes: “In any given hour, on any given day, the news in the church is more good than bad. Much more. By a magnitude of millions more. That’s because most of the news in the church is the Good News of Jesus Christ. That’s something we know as people of faith, but it is also empirically true: Every day millions, billions of people are served by the church, helped and healed through its sacraments, and accompanied through its social services. Couples marry, children are baptized, young people are confirmed in their faith, sinners are forgiven. This is happening right now as you read this in every place the church calls home.”

My friends, all of us are committed to the holy mission of the church. In this most trying of times, may we find strength in our faith, hope for the future, and the joy that comes from preaching and living the gospel of Christ. I know that you join me, your fellow parishioners, our bishops, and the entire church in praying that we will. May it be so!

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Father Michael G. Ryan
Pastor of St. James Cathedral

WELCOME, VISITORS! If you are a visitor to the Cathedral, we want you to know how welcome you are – whether you have come from another part of the country, from across the world, or simply from another parish here in the Archdiocese. For more information about the parish, to register, or to ask a question, visit our Sunday Help Desk at Coffee Hour. A Cathedral staff person will be on hand to assist you. Be sure to stop by the Cathedral Bookstore after Mass for a wide selection of Cathedral souvenirs as well as Catholic books and gifts.

FOR YOUR SAFETY. At each of the weekend Masses a Seattle police officer is present on the Cathedral campus.

ON THE COVER “The first man, Adam, became a living being, the last Adam a life-giving spirit.” Adam and Eve expelled from the garden. Detail of the Ceremonial Bronze Doors. Ulrich Henn, artist.

NO YOUTH NIGHT. We will not have Youth Night tonight

BYRD ENSEMBLE CONCERT. A Polyphonic Feast: Renaissance Music for Special Occasions on Saturday, March 2 at 8:00pm. Featuring richly scored a cappella vocal music for six to eight parts by composers John Taverner and John Sheppard, the program showcases the musical styles that defined the height of the Renaissance in England. The centerpiece of this concert is Taverner’s large-scale mass Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, written for Trinity Sunday. Information and reserved passes, www.byrdensemble.com; pay-as-able parishioner passes, 206-382-4874 or musicoffice@stjames-cathedral.org.

JOIN THE IMMIGRATION CHAMPIONS. In collaboration with a neighbor church, we are organizing a team to participate in the need for a strong public show of support for a family in sanctuary sometime soon. This will likely take the form of a vigil at the USCIS building in Tukwila. We won't know when—neither date nor time—until shortly before the event and it will be on a weekday. Information, Caroline Okello, 206-382-4511.

JOIN OUR IMMIGRANT ASSISTANCE TEAM ON A MARYKNOLL IMMERSION TRIP TO EL PASO, TX, July 6-12, 2019, as we put a human face on complex border issues. We will explore the realities, challenges, and interconnectedness with our sisters and brothers on the border. Experience first-hand how economic and immigration policies affect people. Deepen your faith through encounter with their hopes, joys, and struggles. Information, Caroline Okello, 206-382-4511.

DROP-IN ART GROUP takes place on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month from Noon–2:00pm. Information, Nancy Granger, 206-382-4269.

Opportunities to Serve

ST. JAMES WINTER SHELTER. Are you looking for a way to be a part of the solution to our area’s homelessness crisis? There are currently openings for volunteers to stay overnight on the 1st or 2nd Sundays of the month. Overnighters welcome up to 14 men, aged 50 and older. Information, Patrick Barredo, 206-382-4515.

BABYSITTERS NEEDED. St. James Cathedral offers babysitting for children ages 1-4 during the 10 am and 12:00pm Sunday Masses, during baptism preparation classes, and for special events. Two paid babysitters, who are over the age of 18 and have gone through Safe Environment Training, are on duty at all times. We currently have openings for additional staff. If you like working with children and want to provide a valuable service to the young families of our parish, please apply. Information, Suzanne Lee, 206-654-4640.

VAN DRIVER NEEDED. Our Sunday van ministry is an important outreach to senior parishioners who would not be able to get to 10am Mass on Sunday if it weren’t for our drivers. Right now we have a need for just one driver on the third Sunday of the month. All training provided; background check required. Information, Maria Laughlin, 206-382-4284.

RESECHEDULED PROTECTING GOD’S CHILDREN – SAFE ENVIRONMENT TRAINING FOR NEW VOLUNTEERS. Do you volunteer with children or vulnerable adults here at St. James? Safe Environment Training will be offered on Sunday afternoon, March 10 from 1:30pm to 4:30pm in 1EW at Cathedral Place. You must pre-register ONLINE for this class at https://www.virtusonline.org/virtus/; go to Seattle Archdiocese, and look for the March 10th class. Information, Theresa Van de Ven, 206-219-5822, or Suzanne Lee, 206-979-6308.

ST VINCENT DE PAUL THANKS YOU. We visited a middle-aged disabled woman whose only monthly income is $197 from the state, plus $192 in food stamps. She pays less than $60 each month for rent, thanks to a government subsidy paid directly to her landlord. She is frugal and budgets her money well enough to get by most months. When one of her two sisters died recently on the East Coast, she had a florist send a small bouquet of flowers for the funeral. Paying for those flowers meant she could not pay her rent. We helped with the rent and a few other necessities. We also listened with compassion as she grieved her sister’s passing and spoke of how much she misses another East Coast sister who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Your support for our ministry brings material aid and spiritual comfort to many in our parish – thank you! Information, Bob Clifford, 206-718-4158.


7:00pm, Holy Names Room
SISTER ALEXANDRA KOVATS, CSJP, draws upon the timeless wisdom of nature, the insights of scientists, native people, scripture, theologians and mystics, emphasizing the Christian responsibility to listen to and live in harmony with Earth and to be co-creators with God in shaping the future.

7:00pm, Holy Names Room
CORINNA LAUGHLIN offers a whirlwind tour (and show and tell!) of the men and women who built up the Church in Western Washington.

7:00pm, Holy Names Room
FATHER TOM LUCAS, SJ, rector of the Jesuit community at Seattle University, explores Rembrandt’s depiction of the face of Christ.

7:00pm, Holy Names Room
LT. GOV. CYRUS HABIB, a parishioner at St. James Cathedral, shares about how he brings his Catholic faith to bear in the political arena.

Information, Maria Laughlin

SPECIAL YOUTH NIGHT TONIGHT. Our annual Youth Ministry Oscar Party is tonight, Sunday, February 24 at 5:30pm. Black tie not required (but encouraged)! Come for a chance to win prizes and guess this year’s best films.

Information, Curtis Leighton, 206-264-2082

HOW TO SET ACHIEVABLE HEALTH, WELLNESS & SPIRITUAL GOALS FOR LENT AND BEYOND. Are you considering “giving up” something for Lent? Have your New Year’s resolutions become a distant memory? Do setting personal goals too often leave you with feelings of shame or self-doubt? Learn how to set achievable goals from a place of plenty rather than lack, and the distinction between value and behavior. Presenter, David Teachout is a licensed mental health counselor who has studied theology and psychology and is a mental group facilitator and coach. Sunday, March 10, Pastoral Outreach Center, 1:30-3:00 pm. A light lunch will be served. Information or to RSVP, Nancy Granger, 206-382-4269.

Sacred Steps
Sacramental Moments at St. James


PARISH REMEMBRANCE: Throughout the year, because we are the Cathedral Church, we remember in prayer at Mass and Vespers each of the parishes and missions of the Archdiocese of Seattle on a Sunday near their feast day. This week we pray for the parish of Holy Disciples in Puyallup and the mission church of St. Yves in Harmony.


Return to St. James Cathedral Parish Website

804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303