Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns, University of Dallas Chancellor, gave an address and answered students’ questions at a Student Government (SG) meeting Monday, Feb. 25 in the Catholic Foundation Board Room. SG meetings are always public, but SG encouraged attendance for this meeting because of the presence of the bishop; the attendees filled half the Board Room.
SG president Clare Slattery met Burns while serving with him on the presidential search committee. The bishop first suggested coming to campus to give an address because, as chancellor, he wants to be as present as possible within our community, Slattery said.
Burns’ address was followed by a question and answer session, which focused specifically on university concerns and the recent scandals within the Catholic Church.
Burns, who has been bishop of Dallas for two years, gave a personal account of his life, recounting his seven years as bishop of the Diocese of Juneau, Alaska, parts of which can only be accessed by air and sea. Burns said it is “the smallest diocese in the country, only 10,000 souls, [with] over 1,000 islands,” compared to Dallas, which has “no islands, and all roads.”
Burns has been involved with the university since his arrival in Dallas.
“The University of Dallas is truly a gem; it is truly a gift,” Burns said. “Knowing the wonderful programs, wonderful faculty, wonderful student body, and all that goes on here; it sparks me as the Bishop.”
“It is important [for students] to be sure that I am present to you, and supportive of the programs here,” Burns added. “Even though [UD] is in transition now, it’s exciting to see all that’s happening.”
During the session, Burns described the concrete steps the diocese has taken to comply with Pope Francis’ recent call for an “all-out battle” against sexual abuse by the clergy.
Burns said that he invited former federal and state law enforcement experts to investigate “the fouls,” as he put it. As a result of this investigation, the diocese released a list of credibly accused offenders on Jan. 31, along with all other Texas dioceses.
“I need to know that whenever I’m assigning a man to a parish that that man is fit and suitable to serve,” Burns said.
The diocese also has a review board made up of lay faithful to hold the bishop and diocese accountable, Burns said. The board includes two high ranking police officials, an obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical psychologist, and an attorney.
“They hold us accountable,” Burns said.
“When the flock is shaken, the shepherd needs to step up, and [the flock] need[s] to know the presence of the shepherd,” Burns said. “If we’re going to restore credibility in this Church, I can’t stand before people and say ‘trust me, things are going to be okay.’ That doesn’t work. Trust is a byproduct of continually doing things right.”
Burns concluded the question session with an inspiring message to those whose faith is shaken or weakened by the recent scandals.
“You do not separate yourself from Jesus because of Judas,” he said.