As I write this bulletin letter, I am on vacation. By now you come to hear or read about the alleged sexual assault of a young boy by Fr. Angel Perez who was once stationed here at St. Anne's as a seminarian. The news is most certainly disturbing. Yet, I would caution us all to resist judgement upon any person in this situation since we have little information and the reports that have been circulating are untrustworthy. So what should be our response? How are we to react?
First, I must share that I personally struggle with mixed feelings of anger, sadness, mistrust, a desire for the truth to be made clear, and healing. It cannot be understated that our children are precious and must be protected. It, once again, convinces me that we must be ever vigilant to create and maintain systems that create a safe environment for our young ones even if they are inconvenient. Sometimes, I have received flack from our own parishioners about being paranoid or creating hoops to jump through when it comes to volunteers' background checks and safety training. I can assure you, we do our best to keep our children safe, and have, on occasions, not allowed some people to volunteer with our children to the anger of said potential volunteers. But, in light of these events, I hope people will understand why we are so stringent in this regard. We simply cannot risk the safety of our children in favor of the desire of an adult to do ministry. Ministry is a privilege while safety is a right which trumps all others. The "Called to Protect" program that the Archdiocese demands of us to implement is good and works. Problems occur when it is not followed. Whether Fr. Angel is innocent or guilty of abuse, it appears that the rules for safety were not being followed. Consequently, at multiple levels, the whole Catholic community, ours included, has been hurt.
I know Fr. Angel and consider him a friend. So, I write this letter in a state of shock and sadness. I am very aware of humanity's propensity to sin. I pray that the allegations are false or mistaken. Without knowing the real facts of the events, we need still pray for justice and healing. If you have access to the Internet, I would encourage you to read Fr. Mike's blog with whom I share his feelings: http://shepherdcatholic.com/?page_id=74
Finally, we must continue to commit ourselves to the safety of our children. Please pray for the boy and his family who must be going through a most difficult time, for Fr. Angel and the turmoil in which he now lives, for us priests who live with the collective accusatory stares that come upon us, and for all of us Catholics who have been shaken by these events.
Fr. William Holtzinger