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Parishioners in Nebraska provide feedback concerning sexual abuse scandals

People from throughout the archdiocese shared their hurts, disappointments and hopes with Archbishop George J. Lucas at two listening sessions concerning the sexual abuse scandals facing the church. 

Sixty-four people attended an Oct. 6 session at St. Leo the Great Parish in Omaha, and 34 attended an Oct. 20 session at Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk.

After extended conversations with priests during the annual fall priests’ conference Oct. 1-3 in Schuyler, Archbishop Lucas said he also wanted to “give lay Catholics an opportunity to talk about their experiences, thoughts and hopes for the future.” 

“I feel that I’m a better archdiocesan pastor if I listen to both the clergy and the laity about their experiences and feelings, and to be open to their thoughts on how to move forward together as a church,” the archbishop said.

Pastors throughout the archdiocese were asked to invite one or two people from their parishes to attend the gatherings. Participants responded in writing to three open-ended questions that became topics for small group discussion and large group sharing. 

Bob Huber, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Gretna, who, with his wife, Judy, attended the Omaha session, said the attention being given the scandal needs to happen.

“It’s a blessing that this is happening, and I think it’s going to be a purification,” he said. “This all needs to be brought out in the open, and then we must do the best we can to make the corrections and move ahead.” 

Huber said he is grateful for the opportunity to express his views and optimistic about the future.

“The archbishop wants to be totally transparent about this and to do what’s necessary to get this behind us,” he said.

Archbishop Lucas was grateful for the feedback he received during the sessions.

“Our people are feeling a great deal of hurt, disappointment and disillusionment over the abuse itself and how it was handled,” he said. “As one person expressed it, ‘The bishops have let us down,’” he said.

“I also heard some hope that this could be a turning point for the church, a time of purification and an opportunity to refocus on the central mission of the church – to bring people to Jesus, and to live and preach the Gospel in a more authentic way.”

Other feedback included calls for greater transparency from church leadership, continued prayers and help for victims, greater use of the gifts of lay people, and a desire for the archbishop to work with the U.S. bishops to establish a system of accountability for priests and bishops.

Father Daniel Andrews, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk, who attended the session at his parish, said he thought people were pleased to have the opportunity to share their thoughts with the archbishop.

“It would be pretty easy for a bishop to make his own assessment, but I really admire Archbishop Lucas for making that effort to hear from the people himself,” he said.

“It was a serious and focused time of sharing,” he said. “People expressed themselves very honestly. They’re looking for transparency and accountability, and they want to see the health of the church.” 

The archbishop said he appreciated the laity’s great dedication to the church.

“They know we are facing a difficult time, but they are committed to staying and helping to reform,” he said. “I was very impressed with the deep love that people have for the church and their commitment to live the Gospel.”

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