#BreakingNews President of Ave Maria University gives Strong Statement Supporting Pope Francis - FULL TEXT

August 30, 2018
Dear Friends of Ave Maria University: By now you may be aware that I issued two statements to the Ave Maria University community last week: one on the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, and a second in defense of Pope Francis.  During my 7+ years as president of your alma mater it has been my practice to share my thoughts with members of the student body, faculty, and administration on the pressing issues of the day, particularly those concerning our Catholic faith.  I know that my words hit some members of the University family with great force.  Be assured of my respect for your approach to the faith and the sincerity of your opinions. In my August 24th statement I went into great detail on the need for the Church to undertake sweeping reforms to address what our local ordinary, Bishop Frank Dewane, described as a “heinous history of abuse and cover up” within the Church.  The cries of the victims of clergy sexual abuse, and those of their families, have not been honored.
This scandal touches very close to home.  I have a family member who as a high school student was sexually abused by a seminary deacon who, after ordination to the priesthood a year later, went on to sexually abuse other teenagers.  Only when three women went public many years later was he removed from active ministry. Five other victims came forward shortly after he was removed from parish life.  He has never acknowledged his wrongdoing to any of the victims, remains a priest to this day, and receives a monthly pension check for the 22 years he preyed on the vulnerable while wearing a Roman collar.  I intend to continue to press for justice in his case, and as a lay man, to participate in the reform of the Church so that priests like him are held accountable.
I want to make very clear what my August 29th statement intends to do.  My desire is to defend Peter, not simply Francis.  The Chair of St. Peter isn’t a political office.  Jesus gave the keys of the Church to Peter and his successors.  This divine institution transcends temporal affairs. The Church’s foundation depends on unity between the pope and bishops.  While perfect unity is not possible to effect in a world of sinners, all of us in the Church must desire it.
I am quite aware of the painful history of antipopes and curial corruption. I know the difference between fallible persons and the underlying offices that they occupy. People are entitled to their views on Pope Francis and his pontificate.   My concern is with how we express our views and act upon them during this dark controversy. By all accounts Archbishop ViganĂ³ has served the Church well over the course of a long and distinguished career. My concern is with the prudence of the public, coordinated release of his “testimony.” Can one archbishop be prosecutor, judge and jury and call for a resignation of the pope?
Further, it seems legitimate to question the appropriateness of airing grievances of this nature in a public manner—do we not scowl when dissenters from Church teaching air their views in the mass media?  The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith in its 1990 instruction Donum Veritatis (On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian), issued by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, raised interesting points.  He cautioned, “the theologian should avoid turning to the ‘mass media,’ but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth (DV, 30).”
What was said in the context of commentary on magisterial documents seems to apply as well as to the public criticisms of the Holy Father and his actions.  The Archbishop here publicly accused the Pope of “grave, disconcerting and sinful conduct” and called for him to resign.  In my view, this conduct crossed the line, and a defense of the Holy Father was merited.
What was not merited was my gratuitous comment about what might have motivated Cardinal Burke’s conduct.  Such speculation was unfair and His Eminence deserved better.  He has been a friend of Ave Maria University since its founding and is renowned for his sincere love of the Church.  I will amend my statement on the web site, and I apologize.
Church unity is vital today more than ever before.  The Catechism makes clear in 880-883, and 936-937, that the Pope has primacy, and that the unity of the pope and the bishops is the very foundation of the Church.  You and I must work toward that unity and avoid any potential schism that might mortally wound the body of Christ. The Archbishop McCarrick case raises troubling questions that demand answers.   For the record, I support the initiative within the Church to vigorously examine the evidence.  What His Eminence Cardinal DiNardo proposed seems appropriate.
Like you, I love the Catholic Church.  It is home to me, my wife, and our five children and daughter-in-law.  I grew up with the belief that we should love whoever our pope is and give the benefit of the doubt to him whenever it is reasonably possible to do so.  I see no reason why Pope Francis doesn’t deserve this benefit now.  I remain confident he will comment at the appropriate time on what has been published, and also lead the effort the Church needs to protect children and vulnerable adults from clergy sexual abuse, and hold those who perpetrate such acts or cover them up within the hierarchy, accountable.  Let us all pray for him.
As my statements make clear, all the laity have an obligation to contribute to this reform effort, and I pledge to fulfill mine.  The University will be holding a conference January 10-12 on this very matter and I will be in touch with more information at a later date when our plans are finalized, in the event you wish to attend.
Kind regards,
Jim Towey