Dear Editor: The Tablet regularly updates us on Church abuse scandals and it appears there’s no end to these. The scandals afflict the faithful and victims with wounds, trauma, frustration and disgust. This affliction is fueling mass exodus from the Church and erodes Church influence in matters of faith, morals and spirituality. We are no longer the light and salt of the earth. The Church cooperates with judicial commissions that investigate the scandals and they do a great job. Convicted abusers usually plead guilty, resign, apologize to superiors and go into penitence. This iconic ending still smacks of cover-up and has not resonated well with the wounded and the faithful.
Sin afflicts the Body of Christ and injures human solidarity (CCC: 953 and 1849). For apologies to resonate with the victims/faithful, they should be tendered to God and the Body of Christ in the full view of parishes where such offenses were committed. Such apology must be by volition and not extracted by fiat. Humans unfortunately are often unforgiving and are not convinced that these apologies are deep-hearted mea-culpa. Hence in despair, they abandon the faith. I have met some lay faithful who are still bitter and refuse to believe that the cover-up has stopped. These scandals are a reflection of the larger society; many lay persons are equally guilty except that they are ‘lucky’ not to have been accused.
If true apology stemming from the heart is tendered, such will contribute to healing and God will intervene to stem the re-occurrence of these haunting and never-ending scandals which are a clog in the Church’s mission focus.
The entire Church community must rise up as in Ezra, Chapter 10 (here, Israel was wallowing in evil), and participate in total repentance/prayers so that God will intervene. This is a spiritual battle by the evil one and his human agents to destroy the Church. The demise of the Church in northern Europe started with scandals and socially accepted immorality and these have systematically engulfed Ireland. We are gradually sinking to their level. Let’s hope Chile is not the next!
Editor’s Note: The notion that convicted abusers simply go away and live a life of penitence is misleading. Convicted abusers generally are released from the priesthood and returned to the lay state.