Hi my name’s Fr. Mike Schmitz and this
is Ascension Presents. So, I’m making this video
in response to the scandal in Pennsylvania about 300 priests who abused a thousand—
or thousands— of children. People were asking me, they’re like,
“Fr. Mike, when are you gonna comment on this? When are you gonna make a statement about this?
When are you gonna talk about this? When are you going to condemn it?” And I just thought that was… I was like… well, part of me was asking,
“What do you mean? It’s obviously condemnable, right? It’s obviously evil.
Why would I need to…” — and if you can just go with me on this,
just please be patient with me on this — I’m kind of like,
“Why would I need to condemn it?” Because it’s obviously, like,
the worst thing EVER. It’s just like, it’s beyond…
okay, I’ll get to that in a second. *Sighs deeply*
Umm. “Well ‘cause you need to speak out.” I’m like, well it’s easy to speak out against evil
when evil is obvious, right? So right now there’s no argument.
There’s no argument that that’s… Literally for me,
it’s the worst thing I’ve ever read in my entire life. It’s the worst thing
I’ve ever heard in my entire life. It is beyond comprehension.
Honestly, in my mind… Comprehension.
I don’t understand it. It’s beyond my imagination. I’ve seen Law & Order SVU, and I’ve seen like, okay, terrible things
that people have done, depicted in that TV show. I could NEVER IMAGINE in my entire life what I heard about priests
doing to these kids. Never ever. So when they’re like, “Fr. Mike, speak against this,”
I’m like, it’s … If I were to speak against it now, I would be merely virtue signaling. That’s all this video would be: me, virtue signaling.
What’s virtue signaling? Virtue signaling is putting on the appearance of like,
“Hey I’m on this side…” When it comes to the evil thing, like
“I’m against the evil thing.” And that’s obvious.
But see the problem with it — there’s a difference between
‘virtue’ and ‘virtue signaling.’ Virtue signaling is, I get to claim to be on the right side
and condemn something that’s obviously evil at no cost to myself. I don’t actually need virtue
in order to condemn the evil. Virtue signaling. Because I can make a video like this,
and we can post things on Twitter, and we can post things on Facebook
and say like, “This is so terrible.” And it is, obviously right?
But it doesn’t cost me anything. That’s not virtue;
that’s virtue signaling. The real virtue are the people
who worked on the grand jury for the last two years and went through all that garbage
to find out and prosecute and get to the truth
and get to the bottom of things. That’s virtue. That’s real virtue.
That cost them something. The actual virtue has to do with those good priests
and good bishops who were willing to say “Actually, nope. No more.
Someone needs to speak out about this.” That’s real virtue, and the real —
the biggest thing of virtue — is those victims who, when the statute of
limitations in Pennsylvania was lifted — after years
of the shame they experienced, after years of
what they had to go through — when they had the chance
to speak those kids, now grown…
those victims spoke. That’s virtue.
Making a video is virtue signaling. Standing up when
no one else is standing up. Right now, everyone’s standing up. This video could be just another voice. But when those people who were hurt,
when they stood up? That’s virtue. And that’s so important. So, then if that’s the case, then why am I making
the video if all it is is virtue signaling? It’s because one of the things I ask people is like,
“Well why would you.. “ I don’t know — again, I just apologize for this, but like — why would you need me? Like, I’m just some priest in Minnesota.
Why would you need me to say something about this?” And one of the things
that kept coming back was, “Well we just want to know that you priests
are as angry and upset about this as we are.” And I can’t tell you how
that just struck me. Because I just assumed
that you assumed it that I WOULD be, right? I just assumed that you assumed that all priests and
all bishops would be like, “What the…?!” And just like… I mean… *sighs deeply* I realized the gap between… The gap of trust that’s between a lot of people
and the church. When they have to be told that,
“Oh… the horror you experience
when you heard some of these stories is the horror that your priest
and your bishop feels.” But if that’s the question
then here’s the answer: as I said earlier,
I had never imagined and I could never… *sighs* fathom… the level of pain
these kids went through. And! And this… turning a blind eye… that had happened in the church
for years… This like, “We’ll shuffle you around.” And I know there’s a bunch of — there’s a bunch of reasons that, you know … “Well, maybe they thought this and this and this
at the time…” I don’t care. I don’t care. What I’m talking about right now is a willingness
to compromise and an unwillingness to be courageous when it comes to — when it came to brother priests,
when it came to bishops. It’s terrible. But here’s something
I want to also say, because the next thing people who are saying
“Well, we just want to know that you’re as angry as us,” I’m like “I can’t convey to you
how angry I am.” The next thing they asked was, “Well did you know about all this stuff?
Like, you as a priest? Did you.. I mean… the thing with Archbishop McCarrick?
This whole kind of … this grooming of… of homosexual predatory behavior
happening in seminaries and then in the hierarchy
or in the dioceses and stuff? Do you guys all know
all about all those things?” And I have to say,
I didn’t. “When it came to this abuse stuff, did you know?
Did you have any sense?” And I just have to tell you, I think for the most part,
I’m just a normal priest, right? I’m an average priest in my diocese
doing my stuff. Had NO idea. When it came to, again, this kind of —
stuff in seminary that just… I read about when it came [to] the story
of Archbishop McCarrick. People asked me “Is that what seminary is like?” NO. In fact, when I went to seminary — before I went there —
I read a book that my mom had given me called ‘Goodbye Good Men’
by Michael S. Rose. And it was all about exposing the corruption and terrible
stuff in American seminaries in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. And so I got there in 1997? Or 1998? And so I was on alert, like “Yeah I read a book that’s all
about some of the garbage and… stuff that’s happened in there.” And I didn’t. It wasn’t on my radar. Why? Because I think
the seminaries had been cleaned up enough by then. In fact, I remember talking with a priest — after I was ordained, he became the rector of St. John Vianney Seminary in St. Paul Minnesota — Father Bill Baer.
He just died recently, may he rest in peace. Good man. He was the kind of character
of the person that you’d say, “Because of guys like him, those who would [be]
likely to abuse would never get past his door. They would never
get past his gate.” In fact, I remember him sharing this with me,
that he’d have guys they would say, okay this behavior was evil, inappropriate…
it lent itself towards possibly … like, he’d be a person who it would…
disordered sexuality basically. And these guys would be crying in his office,
[and say] “Keep me in here,” and he said
“I’d rather have you cry in my office than in years, some mom and dad cry in my office
because I let you out… I said you were fine to pass through formation,
pass through seminary and be ordained. So I’d rather have you cry here
than anyone be hurt by you and see them have to cry. And then it’s my fault.” Because that’s the kind of priests I know,
you guys. Just so you know — the kind of priests
that I’ve encountered are not these who abuse, and the kind of bishops I’ve encountered
are not those who compromise. In fact, I have… Our bishop here up in Duluth is awesome,
his name’s Bishop Paul Sirba. And Bishop Paul… he’s so gentle, right?
He’s so kind. If you ever met him, you’re just like, “Oh my gosh,
this man is so kind, he’s so gentle.” But I describe him as, like,
a carpeted wall. And what I mean by that is, ‘cause you go up to him
and like, oh, he’s soft, he’s gentle, he’s kind. But you push against it, like, oh my gosh,
this guy does not compromise. When it comes to any kind of abuse stuff
that would come across his desk, he’s a man who would be kind, [but] he
does not compromise in any way, shape, or form when it comes to protection of youth —
when it comes to protection of anyone — here’s a man who has an iron will. Same thing with Archbishop Hebda — the other bishop I know down in St. Paul, Minneapolis — and other bishops that I’ve encountered.
This is my … this is just my experience. Is that I’ve never met a comprimising Bishop
(I don’t think, at least). I’ve only met faithful men who are saying,
“We will do absolutely everything we can… to eradicate and eliminate
anyone who would abuse… Any dangers for our kids.” So if the question is “Are you as angry as we are?”
Absolutely. I don’t… Yes. B. — other question of
“Did you know about this? Is this something that’s going on underground
that all priests know about?” Absolutely not.
At least this priest, I … No idea. C. — or 3 — …
*sighs* I don’t … I don’t know if this is the time.
Maybe it’s not the time. But people are asking “So hasn’t the church
done anything? Haven’t we learned from the past? Haven’t we learned from 2002?” And I … I don’t know. I think the answer is yes.
Here’s what I mean: In 2002 when the stuff broke in Boston,
like spotlight the whole thing, right? The bishops met
and they had the Dallas Charter. That Charter put in really, really strict … a zero-tolerance
policy for anyone who would be abusing. So any kind of ‘shuffle it under the rug’
or ‘move the person around’… DONE.
Like, absolutely not. This is gonna be something where,
if someone comes forward, we’re gonna believe the victim,
the one who’s making the accusation. And the priest will be immediately suspended.
And all these steps are gonna be taken without fail. And as far as I know — in all diocese
that I’ve been part of — that has happened. Now another thing when it comes to that is,
every diocese in the country has what you call … I mean we have to go through training,
like Child Protection training, all these kind of things. Not just priests, deacons, not just clergy,
but also parish employees and volunteers. Anyone working with youth
has to go through all of this training. And one of the big pieces of training, and one of the big
rules or laws or whatever you want to call it — about working with youth — and that’s what I do,
that’s my ministry, right — is something called
the ‘two-deep rule’ where you may NOT — if you’re an adult —
you may NOT be alone with a youth. Two-deep rule. Has to be at least one other adult,
or group of people, whatever the thing is. You may not… and this is kind of the stuff…
like, the priest? This is the church
that I was ordained into. Because I was ordained a deacon in 2002,
right in the middle of this whole thing. And so I remember going to … I remember
when I got ordained and I went out with my family. Umm… Went out with my family to a restaurant to celebrate
‘I got ordained!’ and this and that, and I remember getting up from the table
to go to the restroom. And I walk by these guys about my age at the time,
and I was wearing this, you know. And I walked by and these two guys are like
“Ugh. Child molester.” I remember thinking, “Oh… Oh, so this is what this is gonna be like. This is what it’s gonna be like to go out in public.”
And that’s how it was. I mean… That’s kinda what it’s been.
You go to grocery store, walk through the airport… Moms have their kids and
shift them over to the other side, watching me. And I remember being really troubled by that
and really bothered by that the first year. I mean, it always bothers me, whatever,
but being really, really bothered by that. I remember going into the chapel going like,
“God, what the heck?! I mean, I didn’t do anything! Why is this… why do I have to deal with this?” And I remember the Lord speaking and he was like,
“You know what? Those kids didn’t do anything either. They … they didn’t do anything wrong. But because of someone else, they have to carry this weight
for the rest of their lives. And they didn’t deserve it. So if you have to wear a collar
and maybe some people look at you suspiciously, then you … you can bear that. Because those kids didn’t deserve this and they are experiencing far, far greater weight, greater pain, than you could
ever experience by somebody looking at you askew. Here’s the last thing. I know some people would say like “Okay, so,
this is the church I’m in, I can’t stay, I gotta leave.” I get it. I understand…
I kind of understand. I kind of understand because, I don’t know, I’ve never “believed in” a bishop,
I’ve never “believed in” a priest. Some of the priests I looked up to when I was a kid —
or growing up, coming of age — failed in big ways. And so I never put my faith in the priesthood
or a certain priest or a certain bishop. And again, I’ve always, kind of …
I guess I’ve always known that the church is broken, because I know that I’m broken
and I know that it’s the human condition. So I guess there’s a piece of that,
that I don’t get it. If Jesus founded the church, then
why would I ever leave, even if it’s got corruption. I would invite you to do the same. Don’t leave the church
when things get tough. LEAD the church when things get tough. I’ll say that again. Here’s what we do, as the body of Christ, as Christians,
as followers of Christ, as Catholics… we don’t leave the church
when it gets difficult, when there’s bad things,
when there’s awful stuff. We lead the church when there are bad things,
when there’s corruption, when there’s awful things. And the best way you and I can lead the church
is by becoming saints. That’s it. But nothing short —
nothing short of that is going to help anything. We have this policy, this Dallas Charter,
we have all these — two-deep rule. All those things are fine —
they’re good, they protect kids. None of them are enough. None of them are enough. When the things get difficult and when the thing gets peeled back
and you’re like, “What? This is disgusting.” Don’t leave. Lead. And lead by saying
“What is disgusting in my life? Where in my life do I compromise? Where in my life do I say
‘Oh that’s fine, this is fine…’” and stop it. Where in my life is their infidelity?
Where in my life is there a two-faced-ness? Where in my life is there corruption?” And weed it out.
Bring it into the light. Refuse to compromise with it. And don’t leave the church,
brother and sister, listening to me right now: Don’t leave the church, lead the church. The church needs you to lead it
by being a saint, more than ever. Maybe we needed it
in the last hundred years too, absolutely. Maybe we needed it
in the last two thousand years — that’s true. But right now, it is unmistakably clear
that what the church needs more than — again, not another charter,
more than more rules — what the church needs is people
who are willing to be uncompromising with themselves in their pursuit of Jesus, to be courageous, to be faithful, to become holy and to lead the church by becoming the saints
that the church needs right now. Again, please,
don’t leave. Lead. From all of us here at Ascension Presents,
my name’s Fr. Mike. God bless.