BEFORE THE CROSS | Called to respect the human dignity of each person

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

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This week we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph — foster father of Jesus and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I want to take the occasion to address something that I've been thinking about for a while: sexual harassment.

My sister shared a quote with me from Sister Diane Bergant, a Sister of the Congregation of St. Agnes, professor and author: "God's reign will be accomplished by God only through you and me. When we treat people with tenderness, we bring forth the reign of God. When we open our hearts to others so they find safety with us, we make living in harmony possible. When we cherish life, we begin to make peace a reality."

As Sister Diane said, "This demands that we stop and reflect on the following two questions: 'By what truths do I live? To what values does my life bear witness?'"

As people of faith, we're called by Jesus Christ to live the great commandment — loving God with our whole heart and our neighbor as another self. We're called to respect one another as being made in God's image and as precious children of our one Father. This truth is in fact the basis of all human rights — and it leaves no room for sexual harassment.

All life has value from the moment of conception to natural death. It isn't OK to denigrate, make fun of, devalue, disrespect, sexually exploit or sexually harass any segment of society.

As Pope Francis reminds us, we're called to show love and compassion to all human beings. Our actions and words matter. They have the potential of making not only others less but us less.

If we're appalled at people referring to a child before birth as a fetus, and not viable on its own, in an attempt to rationalize abortion — and we should find that appalling — we need also to be appalled when women or men are objectified to defend sexual assault and sexual harassment. It's never OK to blame the victim or tolerate such behavior, or think comments about weight or looks or even suggestive behavior are OK.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects employment or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or school environment. There's no place for this in the Church. It goes against the fact that every person is made in the image and likeness of God and must be treated with respect.

Evidence from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center shows one in three women will be the victims of sexual harassment in her time. There's growing evidence of more female offenders and more child offenders among the perpetrators of sexual harassment. Furthermore, I think we have to ask if there's evidence that sexual harassment gives rise to other crimes of sexual violence, such as domestic violence. The situation is dire.

Let me reiterate: there's no place for sexual harassment in the Church. Just as the archdiocese has "Protecting God's Children" policies in place, we also have policies to address dignity in the workplace. I encourage anyone working within the Archdiocese of St. Louis — at any level — to report sexual harassment through our Human Resources Departments at Catholic Charities, the Catholic Education Office and the Cardinal Rigali Center.

St. Joseph was the model of chastity. May his example inspire us and his prayers protect us as we seek to put an end to sexual harassment. 

Appointments

Deacon Bernard A. Buckman, a permanent deacon, is granted the status of senior deacon, remaining in his assignment of assisting the pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Wentzville, effective April 1, 2017.

Deacon Kenneth C. Clemens, Jr., a permanent deacon, parish life coordinator of Immaculate Conception Parish in Maplewood, is granted retirement status, effective April 1, 2017.

Deacon Harvey Dubbs, a permanent deacon, assisting the pastor of St. Clare Parish in St. Clair, is granted retirement status, effective April 1, 2017.

Deacon John P. Flanigan, Jr, a permanent deacon, assisting the pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Webster Groves, is appointed parish life coordinator of Immaculate Conception Parish in Maplewood, effective April 1, 2017.

Deacon Delfin S. Leonardo, a permanent deacon, is granted the status of senior deacon, remaining the Archbishop's Representative to the Filipino Community, assisting the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Clayton, and assisting the chaplain of Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, effective April 1, 2017.

Deacon William F. Priesmeyer, Jr., a permanent deacon, is granted the status of senior deacon, remaining in his assignment of assisting the pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in St. Ann, effective April 1, 2017.

Deacon Richard L. Stevens, a permanent deacon, is granted the status of senior deacon, remaining in his assignment of assisting the pastor of St. Anthony Parish in High Ridge, effective April 1, 2017. 

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