I received an email from my Archbishop about a week ago. You can read the text of the letter here in blog form, http://www.archmil.org/Our-Faith/Blogs/Archbishop-Listecki/JEL-20130626.htm.
The contents of the email and the blog addresses the priest sexual abuse scandal, its impact on those affected, what the diocese did about it and what they continue to do about it.
This blog is about the intersection of the church and technology. Its not appropriate here for me to address the content of this message, but I do want to speak to the process.
Only a few years ago, assuming the diocese wanted to get a message out, what did they do? I recall sitting in Mass listening to a cassette recording of the Archbishop talking about various issues. I recall our Parish Priest reading a letter from the Archbishop (of course that happened at the end of Mass when everyone was looking at their watched trying to get home in time for the Packer’s kickoff). I recall occasional letters being inserted in the bulletin or mailed to my home. This may be the first email I received from the Archdiocese giving me a rather unfiltered message.
In this era of 24X7 connectivity, the Internet is exactly where this message needs to be. The diocese also took an important step and left the comments open on the blog. As important as it is for the Archbishop to get his message out, its equally important to listen too.
Now some will say the courts ordered this information to be public and that may or may not be the case. I really don’t know. Either way, this email, concerning these horrific events, tells me that a new era of transparency and openness may indeed be coming. To a degree Social Media is driving this openness. The Internet and Social Media is changing our expectations in terms of communication frequency, openness, and two-way dialogue. This can be scary, its not without risk, but oh gosh is their opportunity! And from this openness and transparency also comes accountability.
I applaud the Milwaukee diocese’s efforts to make this information public. For the abuse survivors, their families, and even for the church it is only a small step, but it is indeed a step in the right direction.