Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds, the Three Wise Men – each approached the birth of our Savior with great hope, and rightfully so. Two thousand years later, we should feel that same sense of hopeful anticipation. This is why I am writing to you in this Advent Season: Hope!
Moving through this season of preparation and anticipation, I, too, have that “great hope”- as I do every year. But like many of you, I am tempted to discouragement in the face of the ongoing abuse crisis. I know that many of you also struggle with feelings of disillusionment at the sad fact that in too many cases the efforts of church leaders to address the abuse crisis have been insufficient. And worse yet, we are confronted by reports of negligence on the part of bishops and others in church leadership.
As I left the November meetings of the bishops in the United States, I was among many who were surprised and concerned that the Holy See instructed the bishops not to vote on any of our abuse-related proposals. These proposals are meant to improve oversight of each diocese’s abuse polices, and more importantly – and I think necessarily – to establish a process to call all American bishops to greater accountability. I had come with hope … now what?
The Wise Men had set out with great hope at the sight of the rising star, yet their journey seemed to come to an abrupt end at King Herod’s palace. The only reason for their journey was to pay homage to the newborn king, and there was no newborn king to be found. They had come with hope … now what? At that moment they were pointed onward to Bethlehem, and as they set out in faith, the star reappeared to guide them. God had opened their eyes to a new path.
I commit to you that I, along with my brother bishops, will not abandon our unshakable resolve – with your prayerful support – to fix this mess, despite the disappointments we feel and the unexpected interruption to our timetables. This much we know: God wants his Church back. We must not give up hope. A new star will lead the way. God will give us – His people – a new path. And, while words alone do not bring about healing, we can never stray from our promise to listen to, walk with and support victim-survivors-ever.
Returning to reflect more broadly on our observation of this Advent Season, we can take a further lesson from the Wise Men. Their gifts to the child Jesus were a harbinger for today’s traditions of gift-giving. During this holy season, before we exchange gifts with one another, let us first reflect upon the life-giving gift God gave us two millennia ago – his only Son. That remarkable event transformed the world once, and it can do so again.
Together, let us focus on the hope brought forth by the birth of Christ Child. And, let us remember that the Church which Christ founded, not unlike a newborn, will always need to be nurtured by all its members. We go forward with great hope, keeping the Gospel foremost in our hearts, words and deeds, empowering all our individual and community initiatives of joyful, missionary discipleship.
As the calendar moves forward, I want to personally extend my wishes to you for a happy and holy Advent and Christmas Season. Like the Wise Men, may we continue forward with hope, knowing that a deeper encounter with Christ is possible for us all in the New Year.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Reverend Allen H Vigneron
Archbishop of Detroit