Editor’s Note: Recent public statements by Abbot John Klassen regarding sexual misconduct and allegations of sexual abuse by members of the monastic community have ended what he refers to as a culture of secrecy. In the spirit of openness, Fr. Daniel Durken discussed his personal and spiritual reaction to these events in his homily during the Community Mass of Good Shepherd Sunday, April 21. The following is a summary and excerpts of his remarks:
The theme of shepherd and sheep is prominent throughout the Bible. The roster of biblical shepherds includes: Abel, the second son of Adam and Eve; the patriarch Abraham and his grandson Jacob, a.k.a. Israel; Moses, the great liberator and law-giver; King David; and the fire-and-brimstone prophet Amos. The most popular of all the psalms, Psalm 23, begins, “The LORD is my shepherd.”
In the New Testament shepherds were the first to hear the good news that a Savior had been born for them. During his preaching Jesus identified himself as both the gate of the sheep and the good shepherd to manifest his mission of tender, loving care and protection. Jesus is also called the Lamb of God. He is both shepherd and sheep.
There is, however, a shadowy and sad side to the shepherd and sheep theme as Fr. Daniel explained in this excerpt:
“In the Book of Ezekiel the prophet is told to prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. These shepherds, leaders of the people, were bad shepherds. They did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick. They did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost but lorded it over them brutally.
“The Lord God thereupon resolves to remedy the situation. For thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. I will rescue them. I will lead them. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal.
“This is the mission Jesus sets for himself, and this is the mission to which our chastised Church and our chastised monastic community must be dedicated and determined to accomplish. Our church and our abbey must be a gate through which anyone can enter to find the green pastures of peace and protection and the refreshing waters of faith, hope and genuine love. We must reaffirm that our priority is the healing of the victim, not the protection of our reputation.
“This past week the monastic flock led by our good shepherd, Abbot John Klassen, has felt more than a little sheepish. The reports that you have undoubtedly read in the papers or watched on TV have left us feeling numb and dumb. I personally am not qualified to comment on the failure of some of my confreres. I do know that I could never be the first or the last to cast a stone at any one of them. Whatever else they might be, they always have been and always will be my brothers. And I love them.
“Jesus is still our Good Shepherd whose first concern is the healing of the victim. As our Good Shepherd, Jesus will continue to guide us along the right path. Even when the imagery of the Good Shepherd Psalm has become a reality for us and we walk through a dark valley of pain, grief, anger and confusion, we need fear no harm for our Good Shepherd Jesus is at our side. His rod, his staff, yes, even his Body and Blood give us the courage we need at this critical time in the Catholic Church.”
A Homily by Fr. Dan Durken, OSB
April 21, 2002