Cardinal Gregory’s column for the October 2022 issues of The Catholic Standard

It is never easy to write about abuse of any kind. It can be troubling and uncomfortable for both the writer and the reader. Yet abuse in all its horrible forms is present throughout our society and must be addressed candidly and honestly. Today I want to focus on another facet that seems particularly timely. A note of caution: what follows could be triggering. 

There is no way to assimilate the pain of abuse without having endured it. One cannot begin to comprehend the suffering in its aftermath without waking up to it every day. Finally, it is not possible to appreciate the fortitude required to confide in another person unless one has personally felt compelled and empowered to do so.

Still, even if we cannot begin to understand how any of this feels to those for whom it is an inescapable and pervasive fact of life, we have no excuse for listening with anything less than totally heartfelt and genuine compassion, and then responding in kind.

Those lessons have been among the most challenging and most important of my life as a bishop. Every such interaction I have had with a survivor or the loved one of a survivor has served to strengthen my resolve to remove every obstacle along the path to healing, justice, and the safest environments possible throughout our Archdiocese. And if the approaches borne of our Church’s experience can serve as models for other organizations, then all the better. This scourge is not ours alone; we must widely share what we have learned and what we have developed in response if our society is ever to stop having to react to abuse of the innocent and start finding more effective ways to prevent it from happening in the first place.

With that in mind, I am taking this opportunity to remind our pastors, parish leadership, and the people of God of the unequivocal promises we have made to those who may have been abused and who may be struggling with bringing their allegations forward. 

We will, first and foremost and without exception, create environments that are open to hearing allegations of abuse and misconduct, and we will respond with appropriate pastoral care for all who are involved.

We will provide a safe and non-judgmental space for individuals who come forward with allegations of abuse and contact appropriate personnel to ensure all are supported, as stated in Section 9 of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Child Protection and Safe Environment Policy

“Through pastoral care, as well as ongoing education and training for clergy and Church personnel, the Archdiocese will work diligently to promote safe, healthy communities of faith.”

Should we ever fall short on that commitment locally in a parish or school, we will take it up at the archdiocesan level.

We will cooperate fully with civil authorities and allow them to conduct their investigations without interference. From Section 5:

“The Archdiocese is committed to working with civil authorities to protect children by preventing child abuse and neglect, reporting alleged incidents of abuse and neglect, cooperating in investigations of allegations and any resultant judicial proceedings, as well as advising victims of their right to report independently and supporting their exercise of that right, as specified in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

As important as what we will do is what we will not do. When presented with an allegation of abuse or misconduct, under no circumstances will we dismiss, judge, shame, minimize or act defensively. Rather, we will listen. We will learn. We will acknowledge the burden, and we will respect the boundaries. And we will act – appropriately and in accordance with the processes and policies set forth in our Child Protection and Safe Environment Policy, available at https://adw.org/about-us/resources/child-protection/ 

If you have experienced abuse or become aware of improper conduct by anyone in archdiocesan ministry, or if you have reported misconduct locally and do not believe our policies have been followed to the letter, I humbly implore you to contact Courtney Chase, our Archdiocese’s Executive Director of Child Protection and Safe Environment, at 301-853-5302. Again, at my direction and with my full support the actions outlined in our policy will be followed to the letter.

I am proud of the hard work of so many who have collaborated to put these policies and procedures in place, and yet I know that they are only effective if we similarly collaborate to implement them. We owe it to our children and to each other to keep these promises.

May God bless all who have suffered at the hands of another, particularly one in ministry in the Church, and may He bring them the healing that only He can provide.

(Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, writes his “What I Have Seen and Heard” column for the Catholic Standard and Spanish-language El Pregonero newspapers and websites of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.)

A Festival of Lessons and Carols

Join us on Gaudete Sunday, December 11 at 4pm, for our annual Lessons & Carols service.  This hour-long service contains nine Scripture readings, or lessons, which recount the fall of humanity, the promise of a Messiah, the birth of Jesus, and the commission to preach the good news.  Each Scripture lesson is followed by a sung carol or choral motet, and by a prayer.  Come let the familiarity of these powerful readings bring you comfort, and the beauty of these beloved carols bring you peace, as we all eagerly anticipate the birth of our Savior at Christmas.  Make this an annual tradition for you and for your family in this season of Advent!

We need at least 4 volunteers to assist with cooking, serving, and cleaning at this event. We are happy to sign off on volunteer hours for high students seeking to complete the 100 mandatory volunteering hours for graduation.

Guidelines for Coronavirus

Cardinal Gregory and the Bishops of the Province of Baltimore (Archdiocese of Baltimore, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Catholic Diocese of Richmond and the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston) have jointly announced that the dispensation of the Sunday and Holy Day Mass obligation will be lifted beginning on Saturday, June 26, 2021 and Sunday, June 27, 2021.

Celebration of Mass and Holy Communion

Churches in the District of Columbia and all five Maryland counties in the Archdiocese of Washington are no longer subject to governmental capacity or social distancing limits. Consistent with CDC, state, and local guidance, masks are no longer required of any person inside churches or religious facilities with the Archdiocese. Masks are recommended, but not required, for unvaccinated persons when indoors. Please note that individual parishes may choose to keep distancing, masking, or other precautions in place, as well as continue live-streaming their Masses.

The following revisions, effective May 28, 2021 modify the Public Celebration of Mass and Holy Communion Outside of Massguidelines issued May 14, 2020 and revised October 15, 2020. These modifications take into account the following:

  • The increasing percentage of residents who have received the vaccination, particularly those in the age demographic who are at highest risk of contracting Covid-19;
  • The low positivity rate and declining hospitalization rates locally;
  • The recent Executive Orders by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan on March 9, 2021, lifting capacity restrictions in houses of worship along with his May 14, 2021, Order revising the State mandate regarding wearing masks indoors; and the corresponding Executive Order by District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, dated May 17, 2021;
  • The recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the cleaning and disinfection of public spaces, the recommended social distancing of 3 feet in K-12 schools, and the lifting of certain restrictions for fully vaccinated people;
  • The continuing guidance and orders from State and local health departments regarding masking, cleaning, and social distancing.

Based upon the above, below are the updated guidelines for the celebration of Mass and Holy Communion. Please note that these guidelines are also applicable to other parish liturgical events such as weddings, funerals and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Health and Hygiene Considerations:

  • Liturgical celebrations no longer need to abide by capacity restrictions.
  • The use of masks while gathered indoors is not required for fully vaccinated individuals, but is recommended for non-vaccinated individuals. There is no requirement to check vaccination status.
  • The use of masks by ordinary and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion while distributing Holy Communion, vaccinated and non-vaccinated, is still required during the distribution.
  • Per archdiocesan policy, social distancing is still required between individuals from separate households for indoor gatherings as follows: Pastors are permitted to reduce distancing to 3 feet for indoor celebrations (which may allow the use of all rows) if they feel it would be beneficial. Pastors may also choose to set aside a section of the church that maintains 6-foot distancing for those who wish to maintain more social distancing.
  • Parishes are to continue to have hand sanitizer available at all of the entrances of churches.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting after every liturgical celebration is no longer required unless a person with a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 case is known to have been in an indoor space, per CDC guidelines, cleaning with ordinary soap and water once per day is sufficient to remove viruses that may be on surfaces and help maintain a healthy facility. However, such shared indoor spaces must be disinfected at least once a week in addition to being cleaned once a day. If a person with a positive Covid-19 case is known to have been in an indoor space, cleaning and disinfection must occur immediately.

Preparation of Ministers:

  • Musical accompaniment at Mass or other liturgical celebrations may employ a cantor and organist or pianist, or even a small musical ensemble of no more than 4 singers. However, the decision on whether to use a small ensemble must factor in the need for enhanced social distancing (greater than 3 feet) from each other and as separate as possible from the congregation. If the ensemble and/or cantor is located in front of the congregation, enhanced social distancing must be observed and/or the use of plastic barriers. Hymns and sung Mass parts are allowed.

Preparation of the Church:

  • Baptismal fonts and Holy Water stoups may be used. Hand sanitizer must be available in close proximity to permit the cleansing of hands. Fonts and stoups are to be cleaned regularly, following proper protocols for handling Holy Water.
  • Hard copy bulletins and other printed liturgical materials may be used.

Guidance for the Celebration of Mass:

  • Procession at the beginning of Mass and recession at the end of Mass may be restored.
  • The celebrant is welcome to greet the parishioners after Mass, but shaking hands should be avoided.
  • The offertory Procession of the Gifts may be restored.
  • The Sign of Peace should be restored with the use of a gesture, such as a bow or wave, but shaking of hands should be avoided.
  • The distribution of the Precious Blood remains suspended until further notice.
  • The use of masks while distributing Holy Communion is still required (as noted earlier), as is the requirement to sanitize one’s hands prior to the distribution of Holy Communion and if one’s hand touches the hand of the communicant. Holy Communion on the tongue continues to be discouraged, but pastors may make provisions for those who would like to receive on the tongue (the use of separate lines, receiving at the end of the communion line, etc.). If a minister distributes Holy Communion on the tongue, he or she should still sanitize his or her hands after the distribution to each individual on the tongue.

Visit the Media Portal to view the latest statements regarding the coronavirus released by the Archdiocese of Washington.

The Catholic Standard will also continue to provide information as updates are available.

2022 Annual Appeal

The 2022 Annual Appeal is here! This year’s theme is From God’s Abundance, Our Gifts of Charity to remind us that everything we have and share with others is from our loving Father. Through our collective support of the Annual Appeal, we strengthen the Body of Christ that is our local Church, and we sustain her many charitable works that serve the spiritual and other needs of all those within and beyond our parish boundaries. Please consider a commitment to the 2022 Annual Appeal this weekend at home or in-person. Your gift will be credited toward our parish goal. Learn more about the Annual Appeal at appeal.adw.org.

If you have any questions or concerns, please email them to Kelly Hanlon.