by Mike Hoffman
Mike: In reading the recent Crux article of April 18: I have many questions. First off – How are you? Do you remain at your parish? Have you been reassigned?
Father White: I am trying to stay at peace in the Lord. I remain at my parishes (I pastor a cluster of two medium-sized parishes.) By law, I continue as pastor until the canonical appeal process runs its course, which will take some months. But the bishop is trying to bully me into a different assignment.
Mike: On a personal note, as a clergy abuse survivor myself, I am aware that children are protected when adults speak up and speak out about the protection and dignity they deserve as children of God, I appreciate anyone willing to take a risk and talk about this difficult issue. How do you feel your blog added to that discussion in your diocese, and in the Universal Church?
Father White: I think my blog https://frmarkdwhite.wordpress.com/ connected with some sex-abuse survivors. I have been able to develop relationships with them, in person or by phone or e-mail. Their humble clarity and courage have inspired me and helped me understand better what the Church needs to do.
Mike: With the national statistics on abuse, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are abused during their childhood, no matter who perpetrated the crime, many faithful in church each Sunday have been abused. My first thought while reading the Crux article as we need good priests who can connect with abuse survivors. Have you considered direct outreach to childhood abuse survivors?
Father White: Yes, the blog has helped me bring that about. As you know, different survivors have different paths to peace and reconciliation with Christ. Some shun attention and want only to have someone to confide in secretly. Others can't find peace until Church officials publicly acknowledge the crime. One thing it seems like everyone has in common: The sense that we need to talk openly and clearly about the subject, in order to protect young and vulnerable people now
Mike: Please indulge me for a moment with this next question:
In March 2011, Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago, wrote:
The voices of those who have been sexually abused as children are often heard only years, even decades after the children have been hurt. In meeting with those who have been abused, I have heard again and again their heartfelt concern that no other child suffers as they have. This is why whatever has been learned from these tragedies has to be remembered and relearned year after year. “
My question is this: blessed with your glorious vocation, have you met with abuse survivors? I feel your energy and passion would provide healing to them. Also, is there any way to translate the spirit of what Cardinal George was trying to say in your local diocese? In the spirit of reconciliation, would you consider talking with Bishop Knestout about this? It makes me sad to read in the article that you may be removed as a priest. We need good priests willing to help heal the wounds within.
Father White: I agree with what Cardinal George said, especially the part about re-learning year after year. I appreciate what you're asking about trying to talk with Bishop Knestout and reconcile. I spent the past year and a half trying to do that but to no avail. My canon lawyer and I only appealed to the Vatican as a last resort. We proposed multiple mediators and offered other plans for compromise. Bishop Knestout simply refused to engage. He just wants to bully me into servile submission.
Mike: With God’s grace, hope, and healing from clergy abuse of children is possible. Are there other ideas you wish to express about the abuse crisis and ways to move forward?
Father White: For me, the central idea of the abuse crisis is this: Jesus Christ lifts victims out of the web of lies and abuser tells them about love, up into the truth about divine love. When someone who has been abused gets the clarity to see the evil for what it is, and to tell someone who can help, that is a victory for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church needs to learn to see it that way, rather than as an embarrassing liability.
Mike: with gratitude for you and all you do, thank you for this interview.