2 Priest Groups Issue Statement of Support for Archbishop Kelly
Clergy Members Say He Is Right Man to Lead Church during Crisis
By Peter Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
The Courier-Journal [Louisville KY]
April 17, 2003
Leaders of priests' organizations in the Archdiocese of Louisville have issued a "strong statement of support" for Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly.
In the statement, they urged the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in 24 Kentucky counties to stay in office and continue to address the crisis of sexual abuse in the church.
"We affirm his proven dedication to serve the archdiocese and the national church, and we stand firmly with him as he seeks to respond to the sexual abuse issues facing our church now," said the joint statement issued by the Council of Priests and the College of Consultors.
The 24-member council and sevenmember college are made up of priests who assist the archbishop in various tasks and represent priests' concerns.
The Rev. Bill Medley, a member of both groups, said the statements were adopted Monday by consensus and reflect the views of the 177 archdiocesan priests overall.
"We've all very much felt Archbishop Kelly has led us in a good direction in trying to heal and remedy a very tragic situation in our church," said Medley, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Bardstown.
The statement, provided to The Courier-Journal yesterday, responds to criticism of Kelly's handling of sexual-abuse cases. Some local advocates for victims of sexual abuse have started a petition drive calling for his resignation in the wake of last week's release of two memos detailing how he returned a priest to ministry after that priest admitted molesting a teenage boy.
But the priests said in their statement that they believe that the church can best respond to the abuse issue with Kelly in leadership.
While saying they respect the efforts of others in the abuse crisis, the statement said the priests believe "we will all be best served by the stability of continued episcopal leadership of Archbishop Kelly and his proven public commitment to seek justice and to right past wrongs."
The archdiocese is facing more than 200 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests, teachers and others connected with the archdiocese. Medley said he and many parishioners are looking forward to a settlement that would end the contentious legal battle.
"Most people hope there will be a mediated end to that phase so the church can be a reconciler and healer," he said.
The Rev. Nick Rice, who heads both groups of priests and is pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, read the statement at the end of a Mass on Tuesday evening at the Cathedral of the Assumption with all priests attending.
The reading drew a standing ovation from the hundreds in attendance at the Chrism Mass, according to those who were there. It took place after deadline for a Courier-Journal story on Archbishop Kelly's comments during a sermon earlier in the evening.
The Priests' Statement
This statement, issued by two groups representing priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, was issued at the end of a Mass said by Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly Tuesday night:
"The Council of Priests and the College of Consultors of the Archdiocese of Louisville wish to make a strong statement of support for Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly, O.P. and urge him to continue his effective pastoral ministry to the local church. We affirm his proven dedication to serve this archdiocese and the national church, and we stand firmly with him as he seeks to respond to the sexual abuse issues facing our church now.
"We share with Archbishop Kelly profound sadness and remorse that, in past years, the lives of children have been damaged by the dreadful actions of some priests. We pledge to work with him to continue the effort of healing the lives of those abused and of restoring trust in the great number of those who remain faithful to serving God's people every day.
"We respect the efforts of many to address this very serious issue in the life of the church and believe we will all be best served by the stability of continued episcopal leadership of Archbishop Kelly and his proven public commitment to seek justice and to right past wrongs."
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