Homilies from August 5

Dear parishioners,

These are the sermons from both Father Hazuka and Father Hall regarding the Bishop’s recent letter and the stories on the internet regarding the conduct of a couple priests of our diocese. Again, we thought it would be good to hear two complimentary messages from your priests. Father Hall offers a more psychological/experiential response, though he connects it well to our Catholic faith. Father Hazuka’s words are more of a Scriptural/faith response to what has been happening, though his thoughts come from trying to use God’s Word to shed light on my experiences – not only as a priest of our diocese, but also as one who knew Monsignor Kalin from the Newman Center and as a vocation director, and as one who worked with Father Townsend during my time at Bishop Neumann High School.

After our sermons, we suggest some books and online resources that may be worthwhile to pursue, especially if you or someone you love needs some tools to stop the hurting and begin the healing.

Father Hazuka’s sermon:

In the New Testament, there are two letters from Saint Paul to the Corinthians, and one common thread that weaves its way through these letters is the disunity that has developed amongst the Christian community in Corinth, and one of the many reasons for this disunity is the sexual impropriety of one of the members of the community. (See 1 Cor. 5:1ff & 2 Cor 2:5ff.) Disunity is a theme that has emerged and reemerged on a regular basis throughout the Church’s 2,000-year history, and we are seeing it in full force today, especially as this disunity flows from the sexual impropriety of our leaders, including here in southern Nebraska.

One of Saint Paul’s greatest fears is that this disunity of the Christian community at Corinth will lead to a breakdown in this community, undoing all his work for the faithful. The goal of his two letters is to foster the unity that Jesus Himself desires and prays for when He says at the Last Supper:

I pray not only for [the apostles], but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.

As I consider what the Bishop shared in his letter and what has happened concerning the former vocation director of our diocese, one of my great fears is also the disunity that this situation will bring.

Already, I see an attempt to pit members of the Christian community in southern Nebraska against each other – there’s a growing spirit of distrust and fear of one another: the bishop, my fellow priests, the faithful of the Diocese of Lincoln – and I worry that you, the people, will be most hurt by this disunity.

I must admit, I am hesitant to make any public comments about this because of the distrust and fear that have grown in me since the events behind the Bishop’s letter have come to light. I think Saint Paul expresses well to the Corinthians what I feel right now. Towards the end of his second letter to the Corinthians he says:

Have you been thinking all along that we are defending ourselves before you? In the sight of God we are speaking in Christ, and all for building you up, beloved. For I fear that when I come / I may find you not such as I wish, / and that you may find me not as you wish; that there may be rivalry, jealousy, fury, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again / my God may humiliate me before you, / and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and licentiousness they practiced (2 Cor. 12:19-21)

I believe there are defensive walls that need to be broken down, including within me. I must admit that I have a fear of what people are going to think of me because I’m a priest of the Diocese of Lincoln – again, what does Saint Paul say: “I fear that when I come again / my God may humiliate me before you.” I already see a little of the “rivalry, jealousy, fury, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder” that Paul talks about in 1st century Corinth revealing itself in the here and now.

As this situation all continues to unfold, I plan to pray, and encourage you to pray, for four specific things:

1) Pray that the light of truth may be revealed.

2) Pray for justice, as hard as this may be.

3) Pray for healing, for as long as it will take.

4) Pray for unity: unity with Christ as individuals; unity with and within Christ’s Body, the Church; unity with one another.

This situation is like an infected wound on the Body of Christ. This wound needs to be diagnosed (and therefore the truth is so important). It needs to be cleansed properly (and so justice must be served). The wound needs to heal, sometimes more slowly than we want, and then the wounded but healing body needs to be strengthened (which means strengthening the unity of the Body of Christ, harmed by this situation.)

And all four of these build upon each other:

1) First, the truth must come to light, as painful as this may be. Much of the problem and the scandal has been the lack of transparency in our country regarding cases of abuse, which our bishop is trying to rectify for our diocese. Saint Ignatius of Loyola, in his rules for the discernment of spirits, says that:

When the enemy of our human nature [the devil] tempts a just soul with his wiles and seductions, he earnestly desires that they be received secretly and kept secret. But if one manifests them to a confessor, or to some other spiritual person who understands his deceits and malicious designs, the evil one is very much vexed. For he knows that he cannot succeed in his evil undertaking, once his evident deceits have been revealed (Puhl, #326).

The truth, though it can hurt at first, keeps the devil at bay and prevents him from coming back to bite us.

2) Then, when the truth comes to light, there can be the cleansing that justice brings. As Saint Paul addresses the case of impropriety in Corinth, he tells the Corinthians that:

Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:6-8).

3) Only after the cleansing has taken place, can there be healing, especially healing the wounds of fear and distrust that have come and may still come from this situation. Father Hall will talk about those who feel hurt often perpetuate the hurt. Cleansing and healing are necessary so that the vicious cycle of hurt will stop. Forgiveness will be important in this process of healing, “so that we might not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not unaware of his purposes” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11) to use the words of Saint Paul.

In the last three to four years, ministries like Unbound and the “School of Healing” have grown in our diocese. It may be that God’s providence has been preparing us for this moment of testing and hurt. Father Hall and I will try to put together some resources to help with healing.

4) And, as we begin to heal, we then can restore and strengthen the unity that will offer us the faith and fortitude to live our lives for Christ and for others. I can’t help but mention Saint Paul’s words from last week’s second reading, and the unity that flows from living

in a manner worthy of the call you have received,

with all humility and gentleness, with patience,

bearing with one another through love,

striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace…

Pray for the truth to be revealed, for justice, for healing, and for restored unity, and then welcome and receive God’s response to our prayers, especially His gifts of healing and unity.

Father Hall’s sermon:

Well that is hard to hear … but it’s necessary. You see … hurt people, hurt people. Meaning those that ARE hurt or damaged … if they don’t take care of it at some point in their life … they are going to hurt others. Hurt people … hurt people.

And it’s hard when it comes from someone we’re supposed to trust right? Someone within the Church that Jesus gave us 2,000 years ago. Both Msgr. Kalin and Fr. Townsend have their own damage in their lives. With Kalin, physical boundaries were crossed. As his Parkinson’s continued to worsen, so did his inhibitions and self-control. It’s not an excuse, but when there is more knowledge we see where the harm comes from. With Fr. Townsend, his own idea of prudence was not what you or I would agree it should be. Both have deficiencies and because the correct steps weren’t taken, their hurt, their damage, their shortcomings, harmed other people. No, nothing illegal, but still so damaging and so saddening.

And what happened? The people in charge were afraid for the people of God. Because unfortunately, a lot of peoples’ faith is so weak. I’m not pulling punches on that. I feel it too. Sometimes, I am too scared with the Gospel because I’m afraid the REAL FULL truth of it is pushing too hard and people will leave because the commands of Christ are too hard for people to hear. So when it came to these actions by damaged priests, the bishop admits with Townsend he made a weak decision. Tried to hold things back too much, why? Because he was afraid people would leave JESUS, the REAL CHURCH He gave us, the Catholic Church. But, he declared today he’s not going to be afraid like that anymore. It’s time to trust all of you and me as well. Here’s what’s happened, nothing illegal, but still scandalous and sad.

The one thing that concerns me is this: The guy who did this … dug and pushed and prodded for the truth about Kalin and Townsend. Yes, good things will come out of it. The bishop will be more forthcoming and stronger and more decisive. However, the guy who pushed for these stories is a damaged man too. He’s an ex-Catholic who has published some very anti-Catholic things. So, while good will come out of his publications … it’s still hard to accept the man’s motives as pure. Was he really trying to get help and support for people through the truth … or did he want to attack the diocese known for its healthy environment?

In summary, when it comes to cleaning house we all need to do it. I’m actually very happy that while other dioceses have a LOT of work to do, we just have little things to change. Praise God for that.

Overall, what can you do, what can I do? First, pray. G.K. Chesterton put it best when it comes to talking about all humans including priests. We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all sea sick. The devil, who is real, who does oppress and hound people, especially loves priests and anyone helping to lead the Church. Pray for protection for yourselves, but also your priests that they can overcome the REAL assaults of the devil. Second, have faith. Jesus told us the gates of the netherworld will not overcome His church. No matter what scandals or falls happen. Because the falls of people don’t change the teachings we practice THAT CAME FROM CHRIST HIMSELF. The full truth is here within the Catholic Church. If you doubt that, it’s time to do the work and come to know the truth through some study. Lastly, and this is a big one. HEAL! As I said, hurt people … hurt people. Is there a pain in your life that you keep dragging with you? Is there something that you just kind of think is there for the rest of your life? Jesus is the divine physician. It’s up to us to bring our REAL wounds to Him so that we don’t become those hurt people who hurt others! Don’t know where to start? Books like Unbound, Be Healed. Start there. Go to the Unbound conference later this month … the flyers are at the door. Again, Pray, Have faith or get faith, and heal. Because during this painful time … these are the joys that God desires to bring forth in each and everyone of us. Please pray for me. Know that I’ll be praying for each one of you. God bless you.

Resources to consider reading, etc.: 

  • Saint Paul’s First and Second Letters to the Corinthians
  • Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance by Neal Lozano

(Also see: store.heartofthefather.com/ & )

  • Be Healed: A Guide to Encountering the Powerful Love of Jesus in Your Life by Bob Schuchts

(Also see: jpiihealingcenter.org/)