The scandals that rocked the church this summer continue to cause untold damage to holy souls. Yesterday I lunched at the local with Father Nicholas, to discuss parish matters, and the landlady asked, only partly in jest, if more filth was to be forthcoming in the church this week?
How terribly sad that, at present, the expectation of many is that the church endorses vice not virtue. One cannot overstate how damaging to credibility it is. I do not think our hierarchy have fully grasped how disgusted and appalled people are at present. And rightly so.
Once I made my personal feelings on the matter abundantly clear she made a salient comment. She pointed out that the abuse itself, however awful, was less shocking than the poor handling of it by those in authority. She expressed bewilderment and horror that supposed ‘men of God’ could not only cover up abuse and remain silent but that none seem to be suitably disciplined or punished. Father Nicholas and I could only sympathise and agree.
How can we help the hierarchy understand that accountability is essential to justice? That fair punishment for crimes must be administered if healing is to occur? In the wake of the first priestly abuse crisis in America the bishops assured the faithful it would be deal with it. Instead they elected a known serial sexual predator to lead the change and only reigned him in once it was clear he had molested children and not only the seminarians in his care!
There are no words to describe how damaging to episcopal credibility that is. None. Which means fresh sincere promises of remorse are simply not believed. Bishops you have lost the trust of your people. Meaning more handwringing and policies are of no use here. Only when the world begins to see you holding each other to account will you begin to reclaim even a shred of the trust that has been lost.
Many of our bishops are not involved in scandal. Indeed they are good and share our concerns. But when they remain silent and are seen to give each other a pass they are further enraging and alienating people. The bad eggs must not be seen to wriggle off the hook. The eggs must not be seen to be silent and inactive.
Consider McCarrick. Despite years of molestation he has only been removed from active ministry and stripped of the title Cardinal. Meaning he retains the rank of Archbishop!! What?!! Are we really to call him ‘your grace?’ That sticks in the craw! This man abused many and totally disregarded his vow of chastity and he should be defrocked…not allowed to see out retirement with a slap on the wrist.
Or consider Cardinal Wuerl, named multiple times in a report on abuse. He paid off producers of child pornography and enabled abusers to continue their sins. Inexplicably he remains in office and seems to be readying himself for a comfortable retirement and healthy pension. That is not good enough! It has to stop. It has to change.
Those complicit in abuse and cover up must be held to account and seen to be punished. Otherwise how are we priests at the coal face meant to encourage the faithful to take anything the church teaches seriously?
This sorrowful time of scandal will not diminish until we see perpetrators and enablers within the episcopate brought to justice. There are too many rumours and scandals surrounding the current pontificate. It is time the hierarchy took that seriously, put everything out in the open, forced resignations and deal with the matter once and for all.
Further stonewalling, silence and coverup will not do. Trust really is shattered meaning a ‘business as usual’ approach will not cut it. Come on bishops- we need you- it is time to stand with martyrs and saints and act as successors of the apostles and lot count the cost! This can’t be swept under the carpet so please, for the sake of the church, deal with it.
Which is to state that abuse is no longer the prime problem. As the pope recently said most crimes are now in the past and most dioceses now have robust child protection measures in place. The current crisis centres instead on the fallout – the fact that bishops are not seen to be holding themselves to the same standards as they demand of their priests and people. It’s time they swallowed some of the medicine that we might take seriously their promises to change. Those embroiled in scandal must be run out of office and stripped of their collars. Justice and mercy demands it.