- If anyone doubted that Fr. Fitz is a beloved figure at St. Rose, those doubts were utterly dispelled last night. By my count, about 25-30 people spoke at the meeting and not one raised an objection. I would imagine Fr. Fitz will be back soon.
- We learned a little bit more about the accusation. Apparently the accuser was at a parish where Fr. Fitzpatrick served in 1983, so it was possible that the accusation was true. Mr. O'Malley relayed an example of an accusation that wasn't deemed credible, in which a woman accused a dozen different priests of sexually assaulting her, all during a homily. The hangup for a lot of people, I think, was the term the archdiocese used in describing the accusation against Fr. Fitz, which was to call the accusation "credible." Credible has a specific legal meaning, but the connotation for most people is that credible suggests an element of truth to the accusation. When the archdiocese first learned of the accusation, they immediately contacted the St. Paul police to have the matter investigated, and the police didn't find any evidence of wrongdoing. The archdiocese then investigated the matter further and came to the same conclusion. In the end, "credible" isn't the right word to use. Plausible might be better.
- One of the reasons the matter was made public was that it would give other accusers a chance to come forward, since it's generally been the case that abusive priests have had multiple victims. No one else has leveled an accusation. That's an important consideration, I think.
- I asked Archbishop Hebda and the others about a potential succession plan for Fr. Fitz. While I concur with my fellow parishioners that Fr. Fitz ought to come back, he is now in his late sixties and is approaching retirement age. The pastor assignment he's had involves both St. Rose and our neighboring parish to the west, Corpus Christi. A lot of priests have to double up these days and while Fr. Fitz is still a pretty lively fellow, it's a lot of work running two parishes. I suggested that the archdiocese ought to look at appointing a parochial vicar to help Fr. Fitz now and potentially succeed him down the line. Bishop Cozzens said that the archdiocese "wasn't there yet," but that they will be looking at what happens with both parishes as part of the normal deliberations involved in moving priests from assignment to assignment within the archdiocese. You can't just pluck a priest off the tree, of course, but it will be another factor in the overall disposition of the case. My guess -- Fr. Fitz will be back, but he will be getting some help going forward beyond the rotation of retired priests who have assisted in the past.
The takeaway, at least for me, is that the Archdiocese is engaged in the issue in ways it wasn't under Hebda's predecessor, John Nienstedt. Administering to the needs of the individual parishes is an incredibly difficult balancing act, but I suspect we're in better hands now. That gives me hope for the future, not only at St. Rose but elsewhere.