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Part Two of interview with Bishop Saltarelli |
IgnatiusInsight.com: The Delaware Legislature has postponed until January
2006 consideration of Senate Bill 80, the Delaware Regenerative Medicine
Act, which would allow scientific research on cells obtained from killing
human embryos. You made news when you led a group in a Rosary outside
the state house in Dover against the Delaware embryonic stem cell bill
in June 2005. How did you come to make that public statement?
Bishop Saltarelli: Somehow Gods worked through our group. We
have wonderful pro-life people. Certainly I made several statements, we
certainly put it in our diocesan newspaper, in which I have publicly
urged all Delaware Catholics to voice opposition to the embryonic
stem cell bill that was before us.
Just to complement that effort, a couple busloads of people went to the
State Capitol, which is Dover, and what we didI accompanied themwas
just gathered outside the steps and very peacefully, prayerfully recited
the Rosary. I think some people were just touched by that. Some of the
lawmakersone or two of themsaid that they changed their vote
The power of prayer, againthis is why thats going to be the
key to any effort we do. We certainly can picket, we can demonstrate.
Thats necessary sometimes. But we dont discount the magnificent
power that prayer can have in transforming the hearts.
This is my whole thing with congressmen and senatorsthat were
going to pray for these people whether they like it or not. And somehow
God is going to work through them. But the bill has been postponed and
we saw that as a slight victory. We didnt gloat over it. We just
thanked God for it. What we found fascinating was in the state of the
foremost proponent of embryonic stem cell research (U.S. Rep. Michael
Castle) we were able to achieve even that, which is fantastic.
IgnatiusInsight.com asked Bishop Saltarelli about many of the other concerns
of a bishop and a diocese, including Catholic education, migrant workers,
inactive Catholics, the seminary visitations, and how to live as a life
Bishop Saltarelli said the diocese has
opened three schools in the past four years, including two elementary
schools and one high school, but had to close two schools in Wilmington
(those students were absorbed into nearby Catholic schools). The
elementary schools, in the suburbs, are thriving but the high school is
struggling, he said.
Bishop Saltarelli: The high school is coming along slowly. Its
doing well but can do better. Nevertheless, people are still struggling.
Tuition is high. We try to keep it as low as possible. What we have just
initiated is a tuition assistance fund that will make some assistance
available to those parents who want their children in Catholic schools
but are not able to pay the whole tuition. We have initiated this new
endowment which will spin off the necessary funds to assist parents in
that particular endeavor.
Delaware and Eastern Shore Maryland are part of the Delmarva Peninsula,
a still largely agricultural area with watermelon, corn, and soybean (among
other crops) farms and poultry processing plants. Migrant workers travel
to the state and stay on to work in various areas or keep moving on. IgnatiusInsight.com
asked Bishop Saltarelli about those workers and the poverty that they
often face in doing the low-paid, temporary work.
Bishop Saltarelli: Sometimes these are people without papers, maybe
undocumented. But we also have documented aliens and they are working
side by side. And sometimes that causes a little tension. Periodically,
they have these roundups and its horrible to see families destroyed.
A father is just shipped out, without being able to say "so long"
to the kids who are born here and who are citizens here and going to school
Thats a challenge for us. I think we are addressing it best we can.
agencies in place here. We have certainly gotten ourselves involved
in a wonderful ministry to the Spanish-speaking people who grace our diocese.
We see their arrival as a blessing, not a problem that we have to solveits
a blessing. I personally have told our priests over and over again, and
our people: "This is a gift from God." They bring an energy,
they bring vitality, they bring a youthfulness to the church, they bring
a love for the Blessed Mother, they bring a love for family and, so maybe,
arent these shots in the arm that we do need in our church today?
Youthfulness, focus on Our Lady, family lifethe bonds are very strong
and they excite our parishes. We say, "Thank you Lord for this transfusion
of new life."
Yours truly has even had to learn how to celebrate Mass in SpanishI
love it, I love it, I love it. Theyre tolerant, theyre really
tolerant of my poor Spanish, from the gringo, but theyre tolerant.
Theyre a blessing, let me tell you.
IgnatiusInsight.com: There are pockets of poverty in Delaware and the
Eastern Shore of Maryland, both in the rural and urban areas. How is the
diocese addressing that?
We have rural poverty more than anything else. And again we have ministries
out there. Our parishes are alerted to it. Catholic Charities is establishing
outposts where they are needed the most. We have magnificent women religious
in the farthest outposts doing heroic work. Just magnificent. These are
sisters from New Jersey; we also have sisters from Spain, God bless them.
They have left the comforts of another life and have come here and work
with, and amidst, and for, in, and through the poor. The Sisters of Charity
of Convent Station and also the Carmelite Sisters of Charity from Vedruna,
Spain. These sisters are highly professional, highly skilled, and here
they are working with migrantsdriving pregnant women to far away
clinics for prenatal care, helping to deliver their babies. These are
ladies who could be lawyers in their own country, or professors in university.
They have left everything to come here to work with the poorest of the
poor. Its exciting; its exciting.
Im looking forward to retirement, then I can be a priest again.
I do visit, get out as much as I can and just leave the desk, go where
the real action is, as the kids say.
IgnatiusInsight.com: One of the first things you wrote after becoming
bishop, was a pastoral
statement on outreach to inactive Catholics. Hows that
Good. The effort is being made. Hopefully were not perpetrating
the reasons why people have left us. Lets face it, a kind word from
a pastor makes all the difference in the world.
A grouchy guy will disturb the work of ten good heroic priests. We hear
the stories: "Father was rotten" or "Sister was bad"
or "Somebody hurt me." You always try to lift people up, and
say thats not the Church. But nevertheless we have to take responsibility
I think we have made a special effort in that area. To reach out a little
more, to welcome people home. Some of our parishes have a "Come Home
This Christmas" program or even billboards on the front lawns, "Everybody
WelcomeAlienated Catholics Especially." We have let them know
that we are aware of them, and we love them, and we still continue to
reach out to them. The divorced, who feel themselves alienated (through
no fault of the Churchs, of course), but we have a ministry to the
separated and the divorced. I celebrate Mass with them and again let them
know that theyre very important and a critical part of the Church,
and they belong.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Bishop Saltarelli then discussed a new pastoral statement
that was published in September on catechetics.
We spent a couple of years studying the catechetical problems weve
hadlets face it, not only in our own diocese, but certainly
nationally. We studied it, weve had roundtables on it, weve
had reach outsand weve come up with a pastoral and from that
pastoral will emanate a plan we hope to embark on. Something as simple
as beginning with 2006, all religion texts must be in conformity with
the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Nationally, its been
discovered that some are not, and we want to make sure we are not among
IgnatiusInsight.com: How do the Delaware Catholic schools deal with gay
couples with children?
I think there is one situation in our entire school system. I was made
aware of it after the fact. I think they are just dealing with it normally.
A child is a gift, a child of God, before all else and that child is given
the respect that we give to all our other children. I dont think
any sensationalism has occurred because of that. I havent received
any nasty letters pro or con from any parents. I do not see that in this
part of the country as an immediate issue. But who would of thought that
such a large portion of our school children are children in one parent
families? But thats realitythats more of a reality that
we have to deal with.
IgnatiusInsight.com: And how do you deal with it?
We try to be as sensitive as we can. Certainly tolerant, more than tolerant,
and afford that single parent all of the help that we can to assure that
the child is raised lovingly and respectfully and is aware that we are
people of faith.
IgnatiusInsight.com: How did you deal with the sexual abuse crisis in
I would never in a billion years have imagined thatnever mind as
a bishopas a priest Id be dealing with this crisis. When I
grew up, we loved our priests and we waited for our priests and we went
with our priests everywhere. They took us to the beaches, to Washington
to the monuments. And we waited for that; we loved it. Never, never a
telltale of anything, of impropriety, we just knew these as holy men and
they were indeed holy men.
I learned that and so in my early priesthood I certainly took the kids
to Washington, and we went down to the beaches and all that kind of stuff.
Certainly we dont do that anymore, unfortunately. It was not a bad
thing and I think a lot of vocations emanated from that kind of relationship.
And the priests also did not just segregate usyoung ladies came,
young girlswe were always mixed company. So there was no discrimination.
Here in our diocese, I think we were particularly blessed. Certainly,
we have had our cases and weve acknowledged them. What we did early
on is establish a rapport of respect and professionalism with the attorney
general. We met with the attorney general (Jane Brady) and her assistant.
We gave her what was lawful to give to her, what she asked for. She respected
the confidentiality of some situations. But she did not publicize them
or air them. She said it was good enough that her office has this and
if there were any situation that she would be able to handle it. And weve
maintained that open relationship. If we get any accusations, her office
is the first to know what the accusation is and whos involved.
Weve tried to handle it as transparently as humanly possible. Weve
had our difficulties; weve had our few cases. Weve had to
remove three of our priests from ministrybut everything was open
and above board. What was in our diocesan paper was also in the secular
Weve cooperated every way possible. Weve kept our own priests
informed of this thing. My concern was always for our priests, the good
guys, the heroic guys, the guys who were being smeared with the same ugly
stories. Dealing with that is another special challenge because our priests
were victimized also, the good guys, those who continued to do the good
things that most of our priests do.
Ive met with people who have made the allegations, some definitely
victims. Ive met with their parents. Weve tried to reach out
as much as we can. We have counseling readily available for any people
who feel they were victimized in this way. Again, it is not yours truly
doing this [outreach], I have a magnificent staff and they do all the
good, good, holy work.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Whats your take on the seminary visitations
and the reports that homosexuals will be screened from entering the seminary
to become priests?
My take is that in the work sheet, the Instrumentum Laboris, that
was just made available, there
are 56 questionsone of them has to deal with homosexuality.
So, again, we dont want to take this out of proportion.
That whole visitation process has to do with the caliber of people who
are coming into the seminary, the admissions process, our psychological
tests, evaluations being made before admissions. Theres a gamut
there and one of those questions has to do withis there an obvious
homosexual culture in the seminary? Certainly that could not be tolerated
and I agree with [asking the question] but I dont think theres
going to be a headhunting thing now. Its a concern simply because
of what has happened in the past but I would not blow that up out of proportion.
To me, one of 56 questions puts it in proper perspective.
I think what theyre acknowledging is that its a lot more difficult
for a person who is oriented to the same sex to be in that particular
ministry. Theyre acknowledging thissaying this going to have
to be some hero to withstand the pressures of that particular orientation.
I think its a reality check up.
IgnatiusInsight.com: What advice would you give to Catholics trying to
live a moral and happy life?
It is possible. And thats not a cliché. The world tells us
that we are crazy, ridiculous. The worldand not all the worldbut
some groups in the world tell us that were just fanciful people.
But we knowbecause of the glorious history that is oursthat
in spite of crisis, the scandals, the persecutions, that the Army of Heroes
(we call them saints) was there all the way. And the Lord continues. Even
in the most critical of times, He sends these heroes in our midst, to
announce the Good News, to proclaim the Good News.
We have a God who loves us and invites us to a special way of life and
that way for us Catholics, is to follow in the footsteps of the Master
who invites us to live a life that is destined to take us to the Father.
You know, Jesus never promised thered be no scandal; Jesus never
promised thered be no suffering; He never promised thered
be no persecutionswitness the two thousand years where there have
been enough of those, all of them.
But He promised one thing: He promised that Hed be with us always.
We hold onto that promise and we live that promise. Here in this Eucharistic
year we experience that promise magnificently, in the Eucharist. And we
dont need a year to tell us about that, we have Jesus words
that "Ill be with you" and here it is, His own flesh and
His own blood that remains with us and abides with us forever.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com links:
Drawing A Line:
An Interview with Bishop Michael J. Sheridan
the Desert: An Interview with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
Valerie Schmalz is a writer for IgnatiusInsight.
She worked as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press, and in print
and broadcast media for ten years. She holds a BA in Government from University
of San Francisco and a Master of Science from the School of Foreign Service
at Georgetown University. She is the former director of Birthright of San
Francisco. Valerie and her wonderful husband have four children.
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