The Catholic Church gives us the beautiful cycle of the liturgical calendar as a means for us to encounter Christ, experience the fullness of our faith and grow in holiness. What is holiness? To be holy means to be set apart. God is holiness itself and He alone is truly holy.

What is our path to God and to holiness? The answer is Christ. Recall our Savior’s words in the parable about the vine and the branches: The Father removes branches that do not bear fruit and prunes those that do, so the fruit may be all the greater. Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). As individuals and as a Church, we can do nothing without Christ!

We have begun our Lenten journey once more, a journey that will end with the joyous celebration of Christ’s victory over death and sin. These 40 days of fasting, almsgiving and prayer are an opportunity for each of us to grow in holiness, to grow closer to God. It is a time to examine our lives, repent from our sins and receive God’s forgiveness and mercy.

The recent news regarding sexual abuse of minors by clergy has rightfully given the Church’s observance of Lent this year a particular character, as those of us in leadership seek to atone for these sins and crimes, to implement reforms necessary to prevent more harm, and to ask all to pray for the total purification of our Church.

We have begun our Lenten journey once more, a journey that will end with the joyous celebration of Christ’s victory over death and sin. These 40 days of fasting, almsgiving and prayer are an opportunity for each of us to grow in holiness, to grow closer to God. It is a time to examine our lives, repent from our sins and receive God’s forgiveness and mercy.

Just as we cannot skip to Easter so as to more quickly experience the joy, renewal and peace of the Resurrection, so too must we journey together along this arduous path of rooting out the evil of clergy sexual misconduct and all related crimes and sins. As the Father cuts away branches that will not bear fruit and prunes those that will, so we must cooperate with his grace to eliminate sexual abuse from our Church and strengthen our efforts of protection.

Last month, bishops from around the world gathered in Rome for the Vatican Summit on the Protection of Minors in the Church. This was one necessary step, among many, toward bringing these crimes into the light of Christ and fortifying our measures against abuse. During this meeting, Pope Francis affirmed the Church’s “firm resolve to pursue unstintingly a path of purification, questioning how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, (and to) bring healing and restoration to the victims.”

We in the Archdiocese of Detroit have made the same commitment to preventing and responding to abuse in the two decades since the adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, otherwise known as the Dallas Charter. Since then, we have implemented in our Archdiocese a comprehensive approach to protecting our children and communities, preventing abuse, and ministering to those who have experienced the horrors of abuse.

Currently, we are carefully examining our local policies and working alongside authorities toward our common goals. This June, I will meet with my brother bishops from the United States to help renew our efforts to protect all those in our care. I am confident this meeting of the USCCB will result in a major step toward “cutting away” evil in our midst, including by establishing clear protocols for reporting and processing accusations against bishops who abuse or shield abusers. This point is irrefutable: The need for accountability and transparency applies to everyone in Church leadership.

We must remain vigilant and intolerant of anyone who harms children or vulnerable adults. This work to root out evil in our Church is our priority; we must, as Christ taught, pray and fast to fight the poison of evil in the Church. Similarly, we must embrace all the actions needed to ensure the protection of our children and vulnerable adults. 

We must remain vigilant and intolerant of anyone who harms children or vulnerable adults. This work to root out evil in our Church is our priority; we must, as Christ taught, pray and fast to fight the poison of evil in the Church. Similarly, we must embrace all the actions needed to ensure the protection of our children and vulnerable adults. 

Going further, we can never be complacent or content with sound policies and procedures, as indispensable as these are. We are called to a total purification that leads to holiness, to becoming “holy just as our Heavenly Father is holy.” So in this Lent, I renew my resolve to dedicate my best efforts to advancing, in every part of the Church, the renewal of chastity after the example of Christ’s own chastity.

Please join me this Lent in praying for victim-survivors and their families – for their healing, perseverance and faith. Please pray for repentance from all bishops, priests and all those in authority, religious or lay, who have harmed others, or hid this criminal and sinful behavior. Please pray for our Church and for all bishops, including me, that we may be faithful and humble shepherds who lead many souls to Christ. I, in turn, will pray for you. I thank God for each of you, for joining me in this effort of cooperating with the Holy Spirit in purifying our Church. I pray that we each may become holier during this Lenten season and that at the end of our Lenten journey, we experience the overwhelming joy of the Resurrection this Easter.

To learn more about the Archdiocese of Detroit's efforts to protect vulnerable children and adults, visit protect.aod.org.