Thursday, April 01, 2004

Bishop Robert F. Vasa - Diocese of Baker, OR

As I have reflected and prayed about these matters for the past year I have become increasing convinced that there may be another much more subtle form of episcopal negligence which also has the potential to harm children, not only emotionally and physically, but primarily spiritually. When our Lord warned about causing His little ones to stumble He certainly would have known, with great sorrow, of the present circumstances. I am convinced that causing the little ones to stumble could also apply when those commissioned by the Church to be witnesses to and examples for them give witness to values or beliefs incompatible with the authentic teachings of the Church. Even if these persons accurately teach the truths of the Church in their words, the witness of their lives and their expression of ‘personal opinions’ contrary to Church teaching speak much more loudly and children are led, if not completely astray, at least into confusion. . . .

Bishops are now severely criticized for their failure to hold priests to a strict and appropriate code of conduct. Some suggest that the widespread legitimization of dissent from Catholic teaching plays a part in this scandal. This is an opinion with which I would agree. The scandal is focused on evil and sinful actions and I believe it is necessary to look more deeply at the underlying spiritual causes. While we are intent on eliminating sources of possible harm to the physical and emotional well being of children we must also be intent on eliminating the possible sources of spiritual harm; scandal, false teaching, bad example, and the like. These have the power to lead little ones spiritually astray and in our desire to protect children we cannot overlook them. We cannot dismiss the importance of the moral uprightness, the “outstanding moral character”, of those who hold positions of esteem in our Parishes and in our Schools.

SOURCE: "Giving Testimony to the Truth" A Pastoral Letter for Diocesan Lay Ministers.
The Most Reverend Robert F. Vasa Bishop of Baker, April 2004. Attached to the letter is an Affirmation of Personal Faith to which Bishop Vasa asks all lay ministers to give their personal consent.