Priests throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix read a letter over the weekend from Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted to parishioners, asking them to pray for Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, Jim L. Reed and their families.
O’Brien was found guilty Tuesday of leaving the scene of a June 14 hit-and-run in Phoenix that killed 43-yearold Reed. The collision happened two weeks after O’Brien reached an immunity deal, admitting he covered up for priests accused of sexual abuse.
"It is a time to weep; it is a time to pray; it is a time to be strong in hope in our merciful Savior," Olmsted’s letter said.
"With firm hope, let us remember that the Lord is allowing this time of testing, not to weaken our fidelity and not to multiply cynicism, but to purify our faith like gold that is tested in fire," another excerpt said.
Betty Bova, a member of St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Scottsdale, said she heard the letter read Saturday at Mass.
"To forgive is part of really living the Gospel, and it’s the hardest part of being a Catholic," Bova said. "There are a lot of people who are upset with O’Brien, but there is no question that being a good Catholic means forgiving."
Mary Douglas, a member of St. Anne’s Catholic Church in Gilbert, said she attended Mass twice on Saturday and once on Sunday and heard the letter read at each service.
"I was very impressed that Olmsted attempted, after the verdict, to think through the situation and write a letter," Douglas said. "He acknowledged that the last two years have been difficult, but we must move on. He did what he should have done in a a timely, kind and consoling matter."
Bova said that O’Brien’s covering up the sex scandal has hurt not only the Phoenix diocese, but also the church all over the nation.
"Some people have really taken it to heart, taken it personally," Bova said. "There has been a terrible scandal with the bishop not clearing it up, but covering it up."
Douglas and Bova said their faith is unshaken.
"I have been asked, ‘How can you still be Catholic?’ " Bova said. "I say that is between God and me. The church is made up of humans, and there are just going to be problems."