The Church and the latest news.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ:
I know that it seems to be never-ending: just when you've heard enough about the abuse scandal, it seems to dig deeper. Not only as a priest but as a fellow faithful in the Church established by Jesus and continued through his (need I say flawed?) Apostles and successors, I too have gotten angry, frustrated and depressed every time I've opened the paper or looked at my Internet news feed (since I'm one of those cable "cord-cutters" I don't watch the TV news, so I guess I've been spared that one!)
As tragic as the scandal has been on those who have been victimized as well as to the world in general, its tragedy (and the completion of Satan's work against the Church) will be most greatly realized in the number of souls who may be lost due to the trust betrayed and the despair that it will create. We would do well to start any hope for recovery by praying for them and also for the souls of the shepherds who chose, either in action or by allowing, such action to continue and either have or will stand before God to answer for such deeds.
Just as those responsible will have to stand before God's justice, we have to remember that our actions need to be in justice as well. Sometimes we get so caught up in the hype that, in the passion that our emotions generate, we lose sight of this. For example:
Accused does not mean convicted. Keep in mind that the reports are accusations that have the right to due process. Of course, one abuse is one too many but it does not do to assume that all abuse claims are true.
The majority of abuse cases are decades old; in many cases the accused has died. It may not be possible - or extremely difficult - to determine the facts of such cases and determine how justice can be humanly determined. Of course, this does not preclude making investigation where possible; however, it does at least admit where it may not be possible.
Just about every news article I've seen implies that the Catholic Church has done nothing to prevent this problem from recurring. Anyone involved in Church ministry - priests, staff and volunteers - knows that the Church has implemented and continually monitors the VIRTUS and background screening programs to both identify individuals unsuited for ministry as well as how to identify when a situation of abuse might be occurring. Visitation Parish hosted a VIRTUS training session a week ago; many of the participants appreciated being given the ability to recognize the signs and respond appropriately. Far from doing little or nothing to prevent abuse, the Church has created methods of combating this disease that has become a model for other organizations - religious and otherwise - to follow.
The conclusion - whether implied or outright stated in news items (and most certainly in the "Comments" sections of electronic news feeds) - is that a large percentage, possibly even a majority, of clergy are culpable or complicit and are not to be trusted. This is - literally - a damnable lie. If we turn away from our faith leaders, the shepherds who have been called by the Holy Spirit to lead us, despite their human flaws, to the Kingdom of Heaven, we must keep in mind what Peter said to Jesus when so many disciples turned away from Jesus when he told people that they must eat his body and drink his blood (the famous "Bread of Life" discourse from John chapter 6): "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." It would be a mistake - one that may have eternal consequences - to leave Peter because of Judas. While we may come to know some aspects of God through our own reason, we'll never get sufficient knowledge of God without His grace and revelation - grace that we receive primarily through the sacraments entrusted by Christ to His ministers, the clergy of the Catholic Church. Please pray for the many bishops, priests and deacons who work tirelessly in guiding those entrusted to them closer to Christ every day.
This is not intended to be a comprehensive list; everyone who reads this will need to draw their own conclusions and response. We are probably far from the end of this crisis. We are a deeply wounded Church and expect those responsible to be brought to justice. No one is above the call for justice, no matter how high up in the Church leadership they may be; in fact, it is right to hold them to a higher standard and accountability. But also remember that the Church is and always has been, not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners - and we should thank God that this is so. As we picture those who have perpetrated this atrocity standing before God's throne, let's not forget that we too will do so, maybe not for sins of such grave scandal, but certainly ones that are an offence to God's justice. As we trust in God's mercy for ourselves, let's not be too quick to deny His right to extend mercy to others - God's mercy and justice are in perfect balance, even if ours is not. In the meantime, we should also call for and work for justice balanced by mercy, as imperfect as that work may be, because that's how we are called to do God's work while in this life. Please pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit upon His Church, for all the faithful and especially for all who have been so greviously wounded by this evil perpetrated upon God's Church and His People!
Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, August 17 at 3:00PM