Letter to Archbishop Lucas re: Fr. Steve Emanuel
To: Archbishop George Lucas, Archdiocese of Omaha
We, the undersigned, have been impacted positively by Fr. Steve Emanuel’s priestly ministry and have been harmed by his recent departure from public ministry. We are seriously concerned for our parishes, our priests, our seminarians, the archdiocese and the Church. We believe strongly that, as you have stated previously, “it is really important for [you] to listen to the people of God, and that [you] will be a better pastor of the archdiocese if [you] have a clearer understanding of what our priests and people are experiencing.”
Just as certain populations in recent years have brought to your attention archdiocesan decisions that caused them concern, the situation surrounding Fr. Steve’s removal from public ministry causes us grave concern about the archdiocese’s methodologies and the framework for its decisions, particularly with respect to the resulting impact on fairness, justice, the priest himself and the affected parishes. Your recent decisions regarding Fr. Steve and their ramifications extend far beyond Fr. Steve, his parishes and even our archdiocese. Every action and decision the archdiocese makes has a cascading effect on the Church as a whole. After all, we are the body of Christ -- and we fear for the viability of the body in the future without assurance of effective safeguards and protection for ALL of its members, including our clergy. Indeed, while we all join you in praying fervently for more vocations to the priesthood, it is increasingly difficult for young men in our archdiocese to desire to answer that call – and for parents and families to encourage them to do so – when they see good and holy priests being ripped from their vocations and shunned to live in solitude with unsatisfactory explanations and no shadow of grace and mercy evident. They are rightly troubled by the disconnect they have seen between the Church’s mission of authentically proclaiming the Gospel and the archdiocese’s treatment of its sons.
We understand that a report of possible professional misconduct by Fr. Steve was received by the archdiocese and investigated pursuant to archdiocesan procedures, during which Fr. Steve was fully cooperative. We also understand that the party(s) involved in the reported actions have firmly and repeatedly communicated to you their full support for Fr. Steve as well as their strong beliefs that no misconduct occurred and that he is fully suitable for priestly ministry. Nevertheless, you recently decided to prolong Fr. Steve’s absence from public ministry to require that he undergo a “clinical evaluation” process, which could take several months.
We are deeply grieved and disturbed by this decision. While it is apparently aimed at addressing the “diminished trust” you have in Fr. Steve, it is rapidly deepening the crisis of confidence in Church leadership felt by an increasing number of archdiocesan Catholics. As you know, Fr. Steve has served the Church and its faithful obediently, humbly and effectively for over 28 years without one complaint or inference of inappropriate behavior. In contrast, he has been a highly effective pastor, teacher and coach, receiving your highest honor for educators (among other awards) and the consistent esteem and trust of thousands of students, players, parents and parishioners.
We support the efforts of the archdiocese to strengthen and improve its standards and procedures to protect all people from clergy abuse and misconduct. And our understanding is that Fr. Steve fully acknowledges and accepts responsibility for complying with those standards. Indeed, his daily mode of operation is naturally entrenched in transparency, a value to which we know you are firmly committed. Therefore, we question the necessity, prudence and expense (both economic and spiritual) of the archdiocese further requiring prolonged “clinical evaluation” before Fr. Steve can return to public ministry. His absence from public ministry even one day longer than necessary is a travesty that is actively depriving the souls of his flock – indeed, all who know him -- of a beacon of light, a shepherd of the lost, hope for the hopeless and a vessel of grace and mercy. Sadly, we feel strongly that this decision is resulting in the very diminishment of trust in Church leadership that the archdiocese’s decisions in recent years have sought to remedy.
We implore you to re-evaluate your decision regarding Fr. Steve and to return him to public ministry without further delay. Unlike a doctor who unnecessarily amputates, the archdiocese has the ability to reattach its severed limb -- our brother and shepherd Fr. Steve -- which has the ability to fully function and serve the Body of Christ for the glory of God. Please God, may Fr. Steve’s honorable service to our sacred body—and his capacity to continue to serve that body fruitfully-- outweigh the insidious fear with which the enemy seeks to destroy it.
**NOTE TO THOSE SIGNING THIS LETTER: Any request for donation that appears after signing the letter is NOT affiliated with this letter/petition or Fr. Steve. It is a request for support/underwriting from the iPetition web site.