This is an unsolicited article sent under “Delaware Voices” to the Wilmington News Journal
Something very disturbing happened after I celebrated mass on Sunday, 08/01/2010. A small number of parishioners objected to my preaching on the Catholic Clergy Sexual abuse scandal saying it was not about the gospel. WHAT? It is a proper topic for every homily because the gospels are about love. It is out of love for our brothers and sisters that have been victims of this abuse and our wanting desperately for them to get the help they need IS CONSISTENT WITH THE GOSPELS. Not talking about the issue will not make it go away.
Catholics believe, at least we should, that we are the body of Christ. So the actions of these very sick priests and the devastation to victims brought onto them by these very sick priests is the concern of all of us.
Our faith doesn’t happen in a bubble. It should be a living breathing part of our daily lives. Of course we sin, we all sin, and sin can destroy our faith so we must take special care that the destruction of our faith doesn’t happen. As part of our living breathing faith we should all have a desire to have compassion, love and a true desire for justice for not only others who make up the Body of Christ here on earth but for all our brothers and sisters. If we leave God out of the equation we are all still brothers and sisters according to some genetic studies. (I admit I don’t really understand them.) But isn’t it enough that we are all human beings?
I do not understand someone who purports to be Christian and cannot make the connection between the gospels and our mandate to help others out of love, in this case victims of abuse. The Church herself has set in place many good guidelines to protect children and others in the future but needs to do more for victims; The Church needs to do everything possible to bring about healing in the people who have been shattered by this crisis.
I think that help must be offered over and over again to the victims that have come forward. Offering help once and then walking away if a victim is not receptive is not an option. The hierarchy must be persistent. Offering help once and then it being rejected does not signify that we have done all that we could to help. It is a false notion to hide behind the façade of respecting the wishes/desires/privacy of a victim. It is a cop out on the part of the Church. These are the lost sheep of the Body of Christ We have to remember that many of the victims were rejected over and over again by the hierarchy, by other members of the body of Christ and in a lot of cases even by their own families. The pain and the anger of these men and women are almost unfathomable. As a Church we cannot walk away from that, not just because we, (the collective we), caused the pain in the first place, but because in a very real way we represent God and God would not abandon any of his people.
When individuals first approached the members of the Church hierarchy and those in their employ with allegations of abuse, (or at the very least, unseemly behavior), they were ignored, not believed, disparaged, threatened, some combination of those things and ultimately silenced. Therefore some victims of abuse retained lawyers in an attempt to be heard by Church hierarchy. Sadly it seems when assets are involved then the weak are listened too. Would lawyers have become involved if the problems were dealt with as they arose? I think a case could be made that lawyers would not have become involved.
Bishop Blase Cupich, the head of Child and Youth Protection for the U.S. Bishops Conference is quoted in Wilmington’s Diocesan paper referring to the injury of the victims as, “deeper than non-victims can imagine”. And on the USCCB website itself it says about victims, “…victim who has suffered a violation of trust that can affect his or her entire life.”, Why don’t people understand that? I guess because it is easier to blame the victims and their lawyers.
The Church needs to do whatever it takes to get victims help. Settlements of millions of dollars are an unfocused attempt to make this issue go away. Healing is what is needed and wanted by the majority of abuse victims that is what we need to focus on. If that costs millions then it costs millions. People are much more important than Church land and buildings and assets. And anyone who claims to be a Christian, who claims to be a member of the Body of Christ, and doesn’t understand that really doesn’t have a very deep understanding of our faith.