A tough time for the faithful

For the second time in two weeks, this community is in the news due to misconduct by a Catholic priest.

Father Clarence Vavra, a New Prague native who also served at St. Wenceslaus for 11 months back in 1979, reportedly admitted to Archdiocesan officials in 1995 that he had molested a young boy in the mid-1970s, while serving on an Indian reservation in Rosebud, SD.

Last week, Father Dave Barrett, associate pastor at St. Wenceslaus, who serves primarily the western churches of St. John’s in Union Hill and St. Scholastica in Heidelberg, took a leave of absence while an Archdiocese panel reviews misconduct that he was reportedly involved in about 10 years ago.

Catholics across the country have been confronted with the failure of the church’s leadership to protect its church members from priests who have abused children or parish members. (To clarify, Father Barrett’s misconduct did not involve either children or parish members). In 2002, the church instituted new rules to address past instances of priests who were shuttled from parish to parish, keeping them from the active ministry. It appears that in Father Vavra’s case, as well as several others, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis apparently failed to follow its own rules.

A great wrong was done by the offending priests, and their leaders, to those who were abused by members of the clergy. In failing to follow its own rules, sins of a handful become the sins of many. Priests who are innocent of any wrongdoing, and whose only purpose in life is to do good, find themselves subject to a form of “guilt by association,” and members of the church begin to question their faith. Archbishop Nienstedt took a good first step by agreeing to release a list of offending priests. But he - and the church as a whole - need to follow through with this and do much more to rebuild the trust that has been lost.