Mutual Support Summary: AUSCP June Assembly 2024  

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Submitted by: Mutual Support Working Group

 Mutual Support Working Group Report

The Mutual Support Working Group was established in 2021.  For the past three years its members have offered support to priests who have been experiencing the isolation of being disconnected from brother priests, and often from their communities, as they go through various legal procedures, both ecclesiastical and civil.

At the AUSCP Assembly two weeks ago, Ed Palumbos, chair of the group, presented a summary of the group’s work and challenges.

AUSCP June Assembly 2024
Mutual Support Committee Report

In 2020 an idea was surfaced at the Leadership Team about one of the dimensions of our mission: “To Serve as a home for the People of God, offering mutual support and a collegial voice within our pilgrim Church and world, through contemplation, dialogue and prophetic action.”  The idea was to reach out in mutual support to priests experiencing difficulties with being accused, falsely or otherwise, of inappropriate sexual behavior.

The Mutual Support Work Group has been meeting since Spring of 2021.  We established a Mutual Support page on the AUSCP website ( ) which contains a history of our activities and actions over these last few years.

Since our establishment, we have offered support to priests who have been experiencing the isolation of being disconnected from brother priests, and often from their communities, as they go through various legal procedures, both ecclesiastical and civil. It is our conviction that this is a time in the life of priests when we especially need the support of our brother priests.

Our nine-person team has received many communications from priests looking for support and a “listening ear” as they try to escape the isolation that so often results from these kinds of accusations.

In the 2022 we mailed over 30,000 Wallet Cards to all priests in the US.  This card lists the rights of priests as stated in Canon
Law.  It was carefully prepared with the guidance of Canon Lawyers and several bishops.  We continue to receive good feedback from priests who have found it helpful when they are called to the Bishop’s Office.  There are a few of the cards available at the registration desk.

The Mutual Support Work Group meets regularly to share our experiences as we hear from priests from around the country.  The calls average about three per month.  Most of these calls come from brother priests seeking encouragement and a “listening ear.” We often refer them to Canon Lawyers for professional advice.  We see our role as primarily “Pastoral.”

Recently, as we have become aware of many injustices in our present system, we have decided to try to raise awareness of the unjust and inconsistent ways priests are being treated.  We have begun a new project called “Untold Stories that Need to be Told.”  These are real life situations that our brother priests are experiencing across the country.  We are asking priests to tell their stories so that they can be published in the Sunday E-mail Newsletter.  The stories are carefully written to preserve the identity of the priest and his diocese and bishop.  Our goal is to increase understanding of how injustice and consequent hurt and destruction of reputation can occur.

If you have a story to tell or know someone whose story should be told, please let us know and we will follow up.  We see that it is very important to get these real-life examples in the public eye as a way of bringing greater justice to our church and world.

We will be having a Colloquium on the “Untold Stories” project on Thursday morning.  Please come to learn more about this project.  Also, after the business meeting tonight members of the Mutual Support Work Group will be available to chat and hear your concerns.

We have lots of energy about things we could be doing but we need more help to do this.  Please consider joining our Work Group!  I want to thank the members of the Mutual Support Work Group for their time, their energy, their pastoral care, and their
commitment as we support our brother priests.  Our current members are Mike Bausch, Bob Bonnot, Kevin Clinton, Jim Musumeci, Bill Nolan, Ed Palumbos, Gene Pocernich, Mike Sullivan, and Dan Walsh.

In conclusion let me tell you a story.
Captain Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.  His plane was hit and destroyed during a combat mission.  He
ejected and parachuted into enemy hands and spent 6 years in a Vietnamese prison.  Thankfully he survived that experience and returned to the US.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Captain Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.

Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

The Mutual Support Work Group provides a listening ear and wise counsel to priests.   We also provide timely articles to keep priests abreast of the various challenges we face in our lives.   In this way, we are helping ‘pack parachutes’ for other priests.   This is a ministry of all of us, for all of us!  We can help ‘pack parachutes’ for each other in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs – walking with another, possibly in a life-saving way.

Please consider joining us in this important work!

Thank you.

[Editor’s note: Two priests did consider joining the group. We welcome our new members Jim Kiesel and Stan Ulman!]

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