The crisis in the church gets worse and everyone, save those implicated, must agree that the problem of clerical sexual abuse needs clearing up once and for all. Otherwise the church is going to lose every last shred of moral and spiritual authority for a generation or more. It is profoundly depressing.
Indeed the problem is now so profound that anyone using it to fight tired culture wars are part of the problem not the cure. Put bluntly the crisis must not be used by disgruntled Catholics to go after the Pope for political ends. But nor must fawning admirers of the pontiff suggest allegations of his involvement be ignored or downplayed in the face of serious allegation. What is needed is THE TRUTH. Followed by robust action no matter how painful.
For unless this cancer is expunged from the body of Christ it will continue to spread and cause damage. It is time for impartial investigation and total transparency. It is time for Catholics to stop weaponising this crisis and confront it together.
Five things we do NOT NEED:
- Appeals for silence. This encourages sweeping under the carpet allowing abusers to wriggle from the hook. Silence is what every abuser in history desired from institutions and victims – for it enables abuse to continue in the shadows. Turn on the lights – call sin out- leave nowhere to hide.
- Mistaken victimhood. I was saddened that the Holy Father claimed the bishops are victims in all of this. They are not. They live privileged lives but have/or had solemn responsibility over us. Either they have done their duty or failed where sexual abuse is concerned. The victims are those who abused sexually. Call out the guilty and exonerate the innocent.
- Denial. The media refuses to connect dots between sexual abuse in the church and an unhealthy homosexual clergy subculture. This is understandable because the rainbow agenda is a sacred cow in the modern world. But it is not helpful in this instance given that over 80% of abuse was male on male. Let us agree that homosexuality is not the problem per se but that this problem does centre predominantly on abuse committed by homosexual clergy. The old habit of turning blind eyes to those ignoring vows of chastity must be dealt with. It is not only children who are victims of abuse as the Harvey Weinstein scandal made clear. Adults can be victims of unwanted advances also. Witch hunts must be avoided then but those involved called to account not excused.
- Instituional fidelity. A love for the church can lead to a protection of institution at cost to victims. This must end. Because further cover up is going to lead to decline not flourishing. So lets put it ALL OUT in the open that healing can begin and we can look to the future in hope.
- Stonewalling: If it becomes apparent abusers and protectors are in such places of authority that they are not accountable- it must be dealt with. Then it is time for Cardinals to act. For priests to act. For the laity to act. We cannot be held hostage by those not living out the Gospel of Christ. We must not simply give up if the process proves long, tiring and painful. Pressure must continue until the demonic elements are finally removed. Bad things happen when good people do nothing.
Five things we Do NEED:
- Faith in God. The presence of Judas should not derail us from love of God. We must hold together in faith and not abandon Christ as he endures another passion. Let us be at the foot of the cross. Let us look to the Stations and see the abusers and enablers as the ones whipping him afresh. They must be held to account.
- Impartial investigation. Sorry but the Pope’s council of 9 responding to accusations wont cut it. Not when over half are themselves linked to scandals and accusations of corruption. Not when the Pope is himself accused and hand picked them. Any investigation needs outside impartial monitoring and involvement.
- Grass roots mission: Most are beyond the pay grade necessary to sort out this mess. But we can choose to support parishes where the faith is preached and lived. We can support and build up the next generation of bishops. Don’t get too bogged down with the grot above- rejoice in what is good locally.
- Write letters: Write to the bishop. Tell him how angry you are. Explain your frustration. Pressure must continue until the grot is sorted. Those in authority must hear, loud and clear, that the faithful wont tolerate any more of this behaviour. We give our money for the life of the church not to pay off abusers debts.
- Reform your life. When we are scandalised by sin in others we must learn to confront it in our own lives too. Make a good confession. Do penance. Start again with God and get your house in order. He is merciful and loving. Forgiveness is there- but not without accepting responsibility for our behaviour.
Pray then that this crisis will get sorted. Pray that true shepherds step forward and prove themselves men of God, not cowards, by driving out the wicked hirelings from amongst them. May they not put ambition or friendship ahead of the need for justice and truth. We need bishops we can trust. But we wont’ know who those are until on the other side of this crisis.