Letter from Father Elliott Dees in response to Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

August 17, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

I trust in the words of Christ, I trust that he watches over and guides His Church. I believe that so long as He is with us, we will never fall into the hands of the Evil One. Yet there are times where it seems like the gates of Hell are rising up against up and that there is so much evil in the world that fighting against it is almost an impossibility. How much more horrible and terrifying is it when that evil seems to come not from outside, but from within the Church. This is one such moment and I admit that at times I am tempted to throw up my arms in despair.

Many of you have probably read or seen news reports about the Grand Jury Report coming out of the state of Pennsylvania concerning six of the eight dioceses there. The activity described is truly horrific and, in many cases, can only be described as demonic. Three hundred priests stand accused of harming over 1,000 victims. My heart breaks writing that sentence and thinking of the great harm caused by men who wear the same color as me. Almost as terrible as the crimes themselves is the culture of secrecy and cover-up that prevailed in many chanceries of those dioceses. In a misguided attempt to “protect” the Church, bishops and their subordinates abdicated their responsibility to care for the least among us and put reputation before justice. It is little or no consolation that only a few of these crimes were committed after the early 2000s as many of those involved in the abuse and cover-up have never faced justice.

In this moment it is justifiable, in fact necessary, to feel righteous anger at the great harm that has been inflicted in the lives of so many innocent people. The harm of abuse never truly goes away, it is always there near the surface. Coming on the heels of the accusations against former Cardinal Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Theodore McCarrick, it can seem as though the gates of hell are prevailing. As dark as these things can seem in the moment, I have hope that the great good in the vast majority of us will overcome the darkest evil in the hearts of men.

What can we do? Where do we go from here? Firstly, we have to listen to those who have been hurt. We have to allow them to tell their stories so that we can hold those responsible to account. While much has changed in the vetting process for seminaries, we need to take these historical accounts of abuse seriously and learn from them. Secondly, we have to write our bishops and let them know of our concern so that they can continue to reform our policies and procedures so that bishops are never able to cover up these crimes again. Thirdly, we need to fast and pray. Pray for the victims, pray for the Church, pray that a culture of accountability and strength will continue to grow within the Church. Fast in reparation for the great harm done to so many lives. Support those bishops and priests who are making change within the Church. Lastly, don’t lose hope. This is Christ’s Church and he will take care of it. Despite the great evil that is sometimes present, the forces of Hell will not prevail. Christ is present in the sacraments and will sustain us in His grace.

In the Sacred Heard of Jesus,

Father Elliott Dees

Click here for a response from Cardinal Blase Cupich in response to the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.